“Tau-tau”

Tautau Lemo single title pic

21st November 2010

Another day…another adventure in Toraja land! At 8am headed south of Rantepao to Lemo to see the “tau-tau” in the cliff…{the area had changed a lot since 1995!}

The people of Toraja believe that you can take possessions with you in the afterlife and in Toraja the deceased usually go to their graves very well stocked with possessions. As this led to stealing from graves, the Toraja started to hide their dead in caves or cliffs.

The caves and cliffs are hollowed out by specialist trained grave builders. The coffins go deep inside the caves or cliffs and little doors are attached to the cliff faces to safely secure the deceased and their possessions. Sitting on the side of the cliff face are ‘tau-tau’ – wooden effigies of the deceased. And there are specialist carvers that create the tau-tau. The tau-tau are made of wood from the pepaya tree and made to represent the deceased, down to the exact characteristics of the deceased.

Tana Toraja Lemo Caves single pic

TauTau Lemo Pic Collage 1

The graves and tau-tau are hundreds of years old and are rarely used now a days as many of the tau-tau have been stolen from the caves and cliffs by outsiders who obviously make a lot of money selling these ancient traditional artifacts in western countries. Because, of this a lot of local people now use house graves and there are no tau-tau to be seen. The tau-tau and cave graves are a traditional custom that is slowly dieing due to bad circumstance…this is very sad.

As I walked all along the cliff – I could see that some of the little doors to the grave sites had been opened or were completely gone….evidence that people had stolen from the graves. As the deceased are buried with many possessions that they take with them to the afterlife, such as valued cloth and jewerelly, it is easy to see why people would steal treasured goods from the graves. This is yet just another reason why the local people are now using the house graves for the deceased, which can be locked up and protected.

I saw skulls and bones scattered around on the ground near the cliffs, obviously fallen out of the opened grave sites…with cigarettes, lollies and a betel nut bag….perhaps unwanted possessions of the deceased with no particular monetary value.

Tautau + Graves Lemo Pic Collage

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