By Jack Day
For many Americans death is often extremely hard to deal with, understandably. Our system of handling death has been determined by our culture and therefore when a loved one is gone, they are gone. We have them in our memories and photos, but we don’t ever get to see them again. This is not the way the do things in Indonesia.
Instead they have a yearly unearthing of their deceased relatives as a means of showing respect to their ancestors. Taking place in the Tana Toraja province of Sulawesi the Ma’Nene festival is a cultural tradition that involves the careful removal of the mummified bodies from caskets in special rock graves that help with the natural preservation.
Many families gather to pay their respects by cleaning the bodies and redress them in new clothes. Some even position them in ways for all to sit around and reminisce together. It might seem extreme and unbearable even for some to think about doing this with their relatives, but for the people of Sulawesi it is just how they have come to view the idea of death. They are not afraid of it and have learned how to celebrate the lives of those they lost while connecting to something deeper than life and death.
Check out these pictures by notorious photographer Paul Koudounaris, who has a passion for exploring the diverse ways different cultures deal with death. When talking about the time he spent with the people of Tana Toraja Paul said:
“To the villagers it is sign of the love they still share for those who have passed on but are still present spiritually,” he explains. “It is a way of showing them respect by letting them know that they are still members of the family group, and still hold an important place in local society.”
What do you think about this controversial tradition? I say that only because to some it is considered profane to do such things to the dead. It is very interesting nonetheless to see such a ceremony take place. Tell us your thoughts and share this story with your friends and family.