In this documentary we travel to Indonesia, the Sulawesi island, there we know the Toraja and Bajau, two ethnic groups who have a very particular culture and traditions. There, we attended a Toraja funeral, an event that they have become an amazing ritual of several days. We dive into the wonderful world that lies behind the coral reef that runs through large part of the Indonesian archipelago. And finally we boarded on the Bajau houseboats who live in even closer contact with the sea. In fact, they could not conceive of life without it.
For centuries, this has been the home of the Toraja, an Indonesian ethnic group structured in a very hierarchical society, and ruled over by nobles called “puangs”. In the past, these people lived by hunting and gathering, and their constant tribal conflicts forced them to adopt a nomadic lifestyle. But, with the arrival of the Dutch empire, peace returned to the island, and its inhabitants began to settle and cultivate the land.
In the village of Kete, the friends and relatives of the dead man, Mayanna, have been preparing the ceremony for several days now. Kete is a typical Toraja village composed of two parallel rows of houses built on stilts and called Tongkonan, which symbolise the union of the family and the clan. These houses are closely linked with Toraja traditions, and one of their functions is to serve as a constant reminder of the authority of the noble families whose descendents have maintained them and may not sell them. The origin of the Toraja is to be found in the foothills of the Himalayas, and in the past they were fierce head-hunters. The mane Toraja means “Men of the Mountains”.
The inhabitants of Sulawesi have always had a very close relationship with the sea.
These men belong to the Bugui ethnic group, considered the best boat builders and sailors in the Indian Ocean. But there is another ethnic group which lives in even closer contact with the sea. In fact, they could not conceive of life without it. That group is the Bajau.
Their origins remain unknown, though some anthropologists believe they come from the south of the Malaysian peninsula. Since then, innumerable legends have surrounded these the Sea Gypsies. Though the greatest number of Bajaus live in Sulawesi, there are also groups of them in Myanmar, where they are called Moken, or ‘the people drowned by the sea’; in Thailand, they are known as the Chao Nam, or ‘water people’, and they can also be found along the coasts of the Philippines and Vietnam.
The coral reefs constitute the oldest of all natural communities, and the ones which contain the greatest diversity of life on earth.
There are some four hundred types of coral and over one thousand five hundred species of fish, some of them so incredibly beautiful it seems as if each plant or animal is trying to outdo the others.
A multitude of organisms with different capacities to carry out different functions allows the reefs to overcome setbacks that would devastate less flexible communities.
At dusk, the boats that have been out hunting come together again. These apparently fragile floating houses are made of wood from the Api tree, and are incredibly resistant, able to withstand an entire lifetime on the sea.
The day is coming to an end in the calm waters of the gulf of Tomini , it is time for the Bajau to take their boats alongside the mangrove swamps, where they will be protected.
It’s been three months since Mayanna died, and finally everything is ready for the funeral ceremony.
In the sacred rocks of Rantepao, the workers excavate new spaces in which to bury Mayanna alongside his ancestors.
Each group of guests is preceded by their offerings. The most appreciated, without a doubt, are the albino buffalos, which here are called Tedong Bonga. Once the guests have been shown to their places, one of the highlights will begin – the buffalo fight.
The third day is the most important. A lot of buffalo have to be sacrificed if you are to live happily and be respected in paradise.
Mayanna has come to the end of his journey.
The coffin has been placed inside the rock, along with his most beloved belongings. Then, they seal forever the door to his new home ...and that is a funeral in the highlands of Sulawesi, the island in the shape of an orchid.
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 1: Sulawesi Island
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 2: Toraja Village
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 3: Bajau
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 4 : Coral Reef
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 5: Floating Houses
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 6: Toraja Funeral
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 7: Toraja Funeral (Buffalo Fight)
Indonesia. Ghosts of Sulawesi Part 8: Toraja Funeral (Death Ritual)