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.
In the village of Kete, the friends and relatives of the dead man, Mayanna, have been preparing the ceremony for several days now.
Mayanna was a puang, that is, a noble, and therefore the ceremony must be very special, attention paid to every single detail. Once they have finished decorating the village, they must build another one, not far from here, to house the guests. That is where the funeral will be held. For Mayanna’s family, this will mean absolute ruin, and it will be several generations before the debt, some five million pesetas, is fully paid off.
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.
The enormous roofs are made of layers of bamboo canes sealed with a vegetable paste extracted from the bamboo itself, which makes them waterproof – absolutely vital when the rainy season arrives. A carving of a buffalo head decorates the central part of each house. Numerous horns from animals sacrificed at past funerals give an idea of the wealth of the family and are tied to the central pillar that supports the roof.
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.
But the strangest thing about this architecture is the shape of the roofs, and there are a number of theories about the origin of this. Some say they represent the horns of a buffalo, others that they point the way towards heaven. But the majority believe the roof looks more like a boat, its pointed ends representing the prow and the stern.
The origin of the Toraja is to be found in the foothills of the Himalayas, and in the past they were fierce head-hunters. After the invasion of the Bugui people, 600 years ago, the Toraja were driven into the centre of the island, while Muslims occupied the coasts and the lowlands. The mane Toraja means “Men of the Mountains”.