[Editor’s note: This collection contains GRAPHIC IMAGES of a traditional animal sacrifice. They are not intended to offend, only to document and share.]
“Of course death is better than life,” my guide Buty stated after we’d just watched the sacrifice of two large buffalo for a funeral ceremony. Thinking back on my time in southern Sulawesi, I couldn’t come up with a better summary of the cultural beliefs of the Torajan people.
It takes 9 hours by bus to get from the island’s capital, Makassar, to the region of Tana Toraja. Death is a big part of life here, and a man’s wealth and status are measured by how many buffalo and pigs are killed at his funeral. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the bodies of the deceased to be kept in the family home for a year or more, until enough money can be gathered for the ceremony. Afterward, the bodies of the most distinguished are laid to rest high in a limestone cliff grave, overlooking deep green rice terraces and the unique architecture of Torajan houses.