North Toraja / Indonesia

The Spirits in Rambu Solo

As living human beings, the spirits are also preparing and welcoming the descended ones to the next cycle.


The bloods have been dried and aged. Its sickeningly dry and sweet metallic scent of sacrificed animals is still fresh in the atmosphere. In each day, during a week, at least one to two water buffalos are slaughtered. Pigs, chicken, and other smaller animals are uncounted.


During a week, or longer for some occasions, the family prepares a great ceremony as farewell to the descended ones. Rambu solo, as these people who inhibit the peaks of Sulawesi island, Indonesia, call it.


The rambu solo ceremony in the traditional beliefs of Toraja people is a significant phase in a cycle of life. It is believed that this occasion is the beginning of the next cycle, after death. Their efforts in preparing the descended ones in glorious and great ceremony are the form of actions in sending their families to puya, the dreamed heaven conception.


Thus, since the preparation and implementation, the families and relatives will do their bests. Each procession must be conducted in the most perfect way. The imperfections must be avoided. Tens, even hundreds, of selected high class animals such as water buffalo, pigs, chicken will be slaughtered. They will accompany the descended ones through the path to heaven, as in the traditional belief of Toraja people.

This photo project is started with an imagination of the life after death. Most of people believe that there is another phase of life after death. About spirits who are in the surrounding of living creatures. Then it comes to another imaginary scene that the spirits are coming down to the ceremony of rambu solo. As living human beings, they are also preparing and welcoming the descended ones to the next cycle.


Those spirits are invisible by living creatures. The imagination shows that they are moving souls that camera can not freeze them.


The applied photography technique is long exposure to create imaginary atmosphere of rambu solo. By utilizing such approach, the people who are in this great festival will be looked as spirits who are coming down to earth. They are coming to prepare and welcome the descended ones to the next life. A path to puya, the heaven.

Generally, the first procession of rambu solo is ma'palao, moving the descended ones from tongkonan (traditional house of Toraja) to alang (the centered tongkonan-alike construction in rambu solo venue).
After ma'palao, the semi permanent wooden stairs will be taken down. The unique part of the ceremony is the cooperation among people who are working hand in hand to prepare it.
Each incoming guests group to express their mourning will be leaded by a group of dancers, ma'randing. Along with them, the animals, that will be donated, are paraded.
The ma'randing dancers will lead the guests to the main building to be served by families. The dance expose the glorious and bravery of the descended ones during life.
After the guests are seated in the main building, the attendants will bring foods and drinks to be served. They will parade around the venue to the alang in the center.
The servants, usually women, brings snacks and hot drinks such as coffee and tea. Betel nuts are also served to the elderly, aside of tobacco and clove.
During rambu solo, the dance of mourning, called as ma'badong, is performed. The uniformed dancers are forming circle by holding hands and will sing the prayers and stories of human beings relationship to surrounding environments. The lyrics are also about the harmony of human being with the ancestors.
The ma'badong dancers are also sing the histories of the descended ones. With a slow and similar gestures, the dancers will express the dolorous feelings.
The lyrics of ma'badong dance portray the life histories of the descended one. With a slow motion, the dancers will sing those lyrics harmonically.
The donated animals from the guests will be gathered in the center of venue. Those animals will be slaughtered and to be distributed to families, guests, and church communities.
After the animals are slaughtered, they will be burnt the skins and chopped for distributions.

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