Toraja Land – Sulawesi

Living in a small region of the mountains of Sulawesi, the Toraja people are a proud, independent and smart. They keep a unique heritage alive and are famous for their Tau Tau figures, effigies of the deceased family members buried in caves in rocks. Major events are funerals in the village with sacrifices of buffalos.

White buffalos are the most sacred to the Toraja people, and a lifetime of savings can be spent on it for a funeral ceremony.

After exploring the jungle for hidden graveyards in caves with their famous, boat-like shaped coffins, I bumped into a rice farmer living close by.

He told me he was learning Spanish by himself and had visited Europe some time ago, travelling from Amsterdam to Vienna during the winter time. Then he returned Sulawesi, continued his work in the rice fields and built a new traditional house. That’s the way Sulawesi people are. There might be a SUV parked outside, and the mummy of their grandma in the back of the house   — they know how to balance tradition and modern life.

A ritual rice storage building in a small forest mountain village

Rock tombs for the spirits of the ancestors, with Tau Tau effigies.

Men singing and dancing on a funeral ceremony. Buffalos and pigs are sacrificed to ensure wealth in afterlife.

Wooden, carved coffins in a holy cave in Toraja land. The old coffins are shaped like boats. Researchers and local people believe, that the ancestors of the Torajas came by boat to Sulawesi, shaping their houses and coffins like boats in memory of their origin.

family member in traditional costume at a traditional funeral in a village