Toraja, once daily in the newspapers and travel magazines of the world seems nearly forgotten nowadays. So we noticed happily, that PATRICIA CHARGOT article about Torajan's have been published lately in some American publications. The article, based on information's provided by Kathleen Adams, associate professor of anthropology, Loyola University Chicago summarises in short what Toraja and the Trojans are all about. Therefore we reprint it here in full length and add some sketches from Randy Boegis, a Bugis from central Sulawesi who has made Toraja his second home.Man from Sesean by Randy Boegis
WHO ARE THEY? The Sa'dan Toraja (SAH-dan tor-ah-jah) are one of the many ethnic groups in Indonesia, an island-nation in Southeast Asia. For centuries, the Toraja were unknown to most tourists. But in the early 1980s, tourists began visiting. Since then, more than a million foreigners and other Indonesians have been awed by the Toraja's fancifully carved ancestral homes, rice barns and cliff statues, and their colorful, pageant-filled funeral celebrations.
HOW MANY TORAJA ARE THERE? About 338,000. Most live in Tana Toraja Regency, the Toraja's mountain homeland in central Sulawesi, one of Indonesia's largest islands. But more and more young people are leaving to work or attend college in other parts of Indonesia and even other countries.
HOW DO YOU GET TO TANA TORAJA? It's about a 10-hour bus trip from Makassar, a bustling port city. The bus hugs the coast for a while, then turns inland, winding into the mountains and following the Sa'dan River. The road narrows until it barely clings to the cliff as you gaze down into deep ravines. You climb to a pine forest, then descend into Tana Toraja, a series of lush valleys carpeted with terraced rice paddies, water buffalo, bamboo groves, and coffee and clove plantations.
WHAT'S LIFE LIKE? Terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and in Indonesia in 2002 have taken their toll. In the main town of Rantepao, many hotels, tourist shops and Internet cafes have closed. Many guides and trinket carvers have lost their livelihoods. The losses have been felt less keenly in the Toraja's hundreds of small villages.Girl from the mountains by Randy Boegis
ARE ALL THE VILLAGES ALIKE? Not to the Toraja, who are proud of their diversity. As they say, "Each village has its own ritual, each has its way of tearing the banana leaf."
ARE THE TORAJA MUSLIMS? No. For centuries, they had their own traditional religion, Aluk to Dolo, which means Way of the Ancestors. But in 1913, Dutch missionaries arrived and today the Toraja are one of the few Christian groups in Muslim-dominated Indonesia. More than 80 percent of the people are Christian, though Aluk still plays an important role in funerals and other rituals.
WHAT IS A TONGKONAN? A tongkonan (tong-KOH-nan) is a Toraja ancestral house. It's a big part of a family's identity, the place where all the generations gather for weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. The tongkonan tells the family's story and belongs to everyone who can trace his or her genealogy to its founder. Some of the most prestigious, "mother" tongkonans are believed to have been founded by celestial beings. But younger, "child" tongkonans are deeply cherished, too. Most Toraja also strongly identify with the "big tongkonan" - the Christian church.
WHAT DO THE TORAJA EAT? A typical meal would be two huge bowls of rice, a few spoonfuls of ferns, papaya leaves or other spinach-like greens, and a piece or pork or chicken. The meat and veggies are stuffed inside a long bamboo tube and roasted on an open fire. Savory pancakes and peanuts are favorite treats.Young Girl by Randy Boegis
WHAT DO THEY WEAR? The Toraja like to wear a plaid sarong, or long tube of cloth, over their shorts, skirts and dresses. Normally, it's bunched and knotted at the waist. But at night, you can pull it up to your neck to keep warm and even sleep in it.
Images from Randy Boegis, currently in display at the Ladybamboo Villa in Ubud, Bali