They have a huge celebration of death in the village of Toraja in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Hundreds of people come for this funeral, completely unique to this culture. No tears are shed on this day; people smiled, children played.
Like a wedding, it was a celebration and a celebration bigger than any other. The families actually have photos taken with the dead person in the same way a wedding couple would have photos taken at their wedding. I was lucky to be invited to two of the funerals. We don’t know how long the body of the lady had been kept in the house of the relatives, but it could have been months or even years as the custom is to keep the body with them until they can afford the huge funeral the dead person deserves.
In the beliefs of the people of Toraja, the dead person has just been sick all this time; their death is only acknowledged on the day of the funeral.
I became strong it took courage for me to photograph this in order to tell this story. I was fighting tears and wanted to look away. Pigs were being slaughtered all around me and their bodies cut up and burned with blowtorches to eat, blood staining the ground. They were to feed the hundreds of guests to the funeral.
Then, a magnificent buffalo came tied to a post and had its throat slit, blood gushed to the floor.
This is their culture and it was special for me to be there. The family had spent the equivalent of thousands of pounds to do this for this lady but, as an animal lover, I just wanted to cry. The funerals last a few days, bodies then get taken away to be put into the cliff sides but every ten years, they are taken back out, given new clothes and walked around. The funeral was different, enlightening and I’m glad I captured it to show others who may not know that things like this happen in the world.