Living for the dead

I don’t even know how I ended up with so many photos for this selection, but then, Tana Toraja has so many iconic images – wooden boat houses, stunning limestone hills with ricefields, death rituals with buffalo slaughters and pig killings, the wooden effigies carved in the likeness of the dead, bones and skulls spilling out of coffins….

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… a place to reflect on life and death, and what is important, and how it is all natural and sad and still meaningful…. I made some really important decisions while sitting at a roadside café, looking at these ricefields…. and some life came out of those decisions, and also some death…. but who was I to know?

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…not gloomy, but cheerful, and warm, and relaxed in its own way, looks sustainable, with enough money going around, but I’m told, death might just the same bring them down, not just traditions, but too much showing off…. hard-earned cash from outside, all going to the dead…. only leftovers for the living….

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You watch, you see, you learn something, reflect, laugh and talk and share, and then the time is up, you go to the next valley, and it’s a different people, yet another language and culture with its own intricacies, songs, symbols and taboos. Yet all these people somehow decided, or, well, rather, were left with no choice but to try to forge a common identity and find ways in which they belong together. I am aware of the underlying problems and tensions and colonising mindsets, it’s been bloody. It still makes me wonder what is going on when people like me are called traitors by others with the same mother tongue, just because we left, and desperately look for ways to connect, not ways to separate. I should be used to it by now, but it is still too much to take sometimes. One way or another, there are lessons to be learnt everywhere, even the remotest little corner of a remote island. We all belong together. We are all going to die.

 

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