The Long Goodbye


A Torajan family with their deceased relative.
A Torajan family with their deceased relative.

In Tana Toraja in eastern Indonesia, funerals are major events, involving a feast that may be attended by thousands and last for several days. Because of the elaborate nature of the ceremony, families often have to save for months or even years to be able to afford all of the trappings.

Until the ceremony can be held, the deceased is not considered to be truly dead. The body is instead wrapped in several layers of cloth and housed in a special room in the house. He or she is referred to as someone who is “sick” or “asleep,” and while awaiting the funeral ceremony, is symbolically fed, cared for, and taken out on family excursions.

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