SACRED INDONESIA

  A real experience! an exclusive photoreport by Manolis Klinakis that covers the mystery of a funeral ceremony...

 @manolisklinakis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral ceremonies in the village of Nanggala, Tana Torajas in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

 

Few things in life can affect someone as negatively as the idea of death, so most people do not even want to hear about it. There is, however, a region in the world where death is more important than life, the Tana Torajas region in southern Sulawesi, Indonesia. That is a real conventional and cultural attitude towards death.

 

When a member of the tribe dies, he does not die completely but about. The funeral ceremony is not always happening right away because a typical family does not have enough financial resources to carry it out, but it can wait even years to get enough money until it's all ready for a ‘’decent’’ funeral, leaving many necessary commodities of life for this purpose.

 

Meanwhile, the deceased is not buried, but is embalmed and stays under the same roof as the rest of the family. The body is mummified with formol, while its family continues to treat it normally by washing it, flavoring it with various herbs and preparing its favorite foods, drinks and cigarettes and changing clothes often. They accompany him/her, while the night light is always stays open, otherwise the spirits of the dead do not quench.

 

When the money is gathered and the maximum of the expected offers for items (some of which will be taken by the dead in the Other World), pigs and, above all, buffaloes by relatives and friends, the ceremony begins with sacrifices and the slaughter of buffalos and pigs in honor of the dead. These funeral rituals are known as Rambu Soloq and last between one and seven days, depending on the social status of the dead. This is a tradition of centuries that has survived, although most are now Christians.

 

We watched such a burial ceremony in the village of Nanggala, and the experience was shocking and creepy at the same time. Visitors are welcome, but they have to offer a gift for the soul of the dead (they suggested us to offer two boxes of cigarettes). We stood in front of the dirt square of the village, flooded with blood. They take the blood from the animal while it is still alive because it is said that if you are cooking with the blood from a still living crap of funeral ceremony, you can communicate with the soul of the dead.

 

The square is surrounded by the largest Tongans (traditional houses) of the village, which belong to the forerunners. On their raised wooden patios and below, at their bases, the whole village is concentrated, relatives and friends of the dead family. All of them dressed in the most official Sarongs, mostly black, who neither mourn nor laugh. They are serious and talk to each other as if they are doing some complicated assumptions.

 

Thirty-forty young men were dancing under the sounds of music in two concentric circles in the middle of the square and were gathering the blood of animals blooming into bamboo pipes. Music is caused mainly by a rhythmic chorus (almost murmur), which involves some kind of narrative.

 

The more powerful and in higher class is the dead, the more animals are sacrificed. The buffalo transports the soul of the dead, so besides pigs, even a buffalo must be sacrificed, but it costs a lot of money. If not enough animals are sacrificed, especially buffalos, then there is a possibility that the family of the deceased may come down to a social class. From the moment of the sacrifice, the dead are entitled to die normally and take the purgatory for the Pugia (so they call Torajas their Paradise). Then, and only then, he will abandon his Tongan to finally get into a coffin and be buried in a special place.

 

 It is a fact that the majority of human civilization adopts a kind of spiritual worldview that animates every form and manifestation of the natural world. However, having experienced this shocking and almost illogical experience, one can’t ignore the deeper existential meaning of life.

Manolis Klinakis