In Sulawesi (Idonesia) the toraja people prepare the funeral of a rich man
These are the Sulawesi highlands, home of the former head-hunters known as toroja, which means “mountain men”.
In the village of Kete on the funeral day of a distinguished noble. Three months after his body was embalmed, everything is ready.
The deceased Mayanna was a pung, a wealthy local. The burial ceremony will be so sumptuous, though, that his family will be ruined economically. In order to pay for the over-the-top funeral they’ve had to sell good rice land and farm animals.
Nevertheless, the extravagance of the ceremony will guaranty that the dead man will rejoin his ancestors in paradise.
The goal is to “satisfy the deceased”, and if Mayanna is indeed content with his funeral, he will protect his family and bring them luck.
At first the attendees don’t cry for the dead. It seems more like a party, and what a great time they’re having! Amidst the tumult the coffin is excitedly lifted up high. But at the sound of a gong the mood suddenly changes.
Now no one is hiding their sorrow. On the contrary, they are openly grief-stricken. I don’t know if this is due to the loss of Mayanna or the economic ruin that has befallen them.
Later the main event starts: The buffalo fight.
This funeral dance is called Mabadong. The men dance as they hold onto each other’s little fingers, singing together in an intense lamentation.
As at any good wake, there must be plenty of food. They all must fortify themselves for the hardest part of the burial, which is yet to come. The full coffin will be carried on the shoulders of the mourners into the forest and to the sacred stones of Rantepao.
They’ve finally arrived. This mountain man has returned to the mountain in death. While his coffin is slid into its rocky niche, the officiator reads a Biblical prayer for the dead.
A local artisan has produced a wooden sculpture called a tau-tau of the deceased Mayanna. For a family of such high prestige, the effigy will cost a fortune, five buffalos.
Once the figure is ready, it is added to the other effigies on the balcony of statuary, from which numerous wooden figures of the deceased observe the scene