Traditional Funeral

Tikala Village, Tana Toraja

This admittedly disturbing image should be understood in context. The buffalo have been slaughtered so that their meat may be shared and eaten by poor villagers at the funeral feast. Spiritually, the soul of the deceased will ascend to heaven on the backs of the buffalo. The number of buffalo slaughtered depends on the wealth of the deceased and his family; the more buffalo, the greater the merit. Foreigners, including the present photographer and any other tourists who might show up, are welcomed to the feast; as persons of ritually high status1, they bring additional blessings to the funeral.

1Contrast India, where foreigners are considered to be ritually polluted and of very low status.