Uncle Albert’s hanging around

The Torajans of Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s thousands of islands, like to stay close to their dead relatives.

They keep the bodies of the deceased in their homes for as long as a few years, believing that a dead person who is still at home is not dead.

Families regard the death as a long sleep, and treat the corpse as if the person was still alive. They keep the corpse clean, change its clothes, offer it food and drink, pray with it, and leave the lights on at night.

This ritual goes back centuries.

There is a class distinction in the practice: while poorer families tend to the bodies for a few weeks, and the middle class keep them for several months, the wealthy might keep the corpses for a few years.

As many as half a million Torajans live in the Sulawesi highlands, almost 90% Christian, but they still practise their traditional religion Aluk to Dolo or ‘Way of the Ancestors’.


Picture source: 22Kartika via Wikimedia Commons