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Life and Death in Toraja

My Photo scholarship 2010 entry

Worldwide | Tuesday, 17 August 2010 | flickr photos



“Of course death is better than life” my guide Budi stated after we just watched the sacrifice of two large buffalo for a funeral ceremony. In my time in Toraja, I could not think of a better summary of their unique cultural beliefs.

I had long dreamed of visiting and photographing the mythical culture and landscape of Toraja located in the lush mountains of Sulawesi, Indonesia. In June 2010 I finally got that opportunity.

While the inhabitants of this hinterland may declare they are protestant its the unusual and fascinating animist funeral ceremonies which bring in the tourists looking for a unique cultural experience. Torajan's believe the souls of their animals will guide them into the afterlife and so on the day of the ceremony a selection of the unlucky animals are sacrificed and a feast is prepared for the masses who have attended this the most important day of the deceased life.

I chose to photograph the Torajan region focusing on the explicit and often gory funeral customs while also trying to show its majestic landscape and beautiful architecture to offset the harshness of the local customs. My hope was to leave a viewer spellbound by the beauty of the area as well as to display some unforgettable images of the unique culture of the Torajan people.

I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer who has been enthralled by the hobby for the past 3 years. I have been self taught experimenting with what I like and don't like and have never really received any instruction from someone more knowledgeable that myself. I see this as a great opportunity for me to grow as a photographer and receive guidance from someone who is at the top of the field in a location which could not possibly be more inspiring than Bhutan. Thank you for offering such an incredible contest!

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