Saturday, 8 March 2014

Headhunting in Kansas 10

But this was still 1999, and Cheyenne and his two flip-flop friends were still high on Kansas in the front seat, guiding two foolish foreigners, through a war zone they hadn’t even realized existed, to a refuge they didn’t even know they needed.
Our Land Cruiser, the color of war, passed through the life-affirming montane forest of Lore Lindu National Park, containing birds that laugh like people, others that lay their single egg in hot sand, pigs that look like hippos, the largest snake in the world, and midget buffalo. I asked Cheyenne whether there was a chance of seeing any of these creatures.
“We may see one, or we may see God.” He said. “The odds are about the same.” The reason for that presented itself in the form of illegal new settlements we drove through, squatters clearing large patches of forest for agriculture. The National Forest was being destroyed by the National Migrants from Java and Bali. We stopped to admire the Balinese Aging Jagad Raya temple complex in Toini village, seven years before it would be pipebombed by Muslim terrorists. It seemed that Hindus would have the same chance as the other creatures of Lore Lindu, of seeing God.
Even though we had transmigrated the Poso War, we still had 170 kilometers of Trans-Sulawesi highway before we would arrive in Palu. Cheyenne and his flip-flop friends chain-smoked Kansas, and jabbered away in Bahasa, while Robyn and I watched the unpaved mountain roads getting narrower, and more precipitous. Just when we thought it couldn’t get more treacherous, the violent forces of chaos returned once more, to prove us wrong. As Cheyenne negotiated a particularly tight turn around the track, cut out of where the mountain once was, the road disappeared. We stopped in disbelief. It hadn’t actually disappeared, but it had appeared that it was buried beneath a landslide. No ordinary landslide, it was more like and tropical soil avalanche, come to reclaim the profile it had been born with. No one was going anywhere. We weren’t going forward, and Robyn and I were determined that there was no way we were going back. Cheyenne and his flip-flop friends squatted on the edge of the universe, smoking their way through the rest of Kansas. Robyn and I kept an eye out for rare creatures, or God. We waited on our side of the mountain road, for all of three hours, before we heard the sound of deliverance. What finally broke through the earthen wall with a mighty roar, made us pinch ourselves, and rub our eyes. A brand new bright yellow D9 Caterpillar bulldozer, Kansas hanging from the operator’s lower lip, tore through the topography like the US Corps of Army Engineers. It took another hour before anything like a roadbed was deemed safe enough for us to pass, but when it was, we did, and the last roadblock was behind us.
The eelation we all felt, as the black Toyota pulled into Palu, was eelectric. It was like driving down the Champs-Élysées in Paris, if Paris had been in the middle of a drought, and bombed by the CIA. Cheyenne motioned to us in the rear view mirror.
“Golden?” He asked. That sounded good to both of us, and we nodded in unison. A few minutes later, down Jalan Raden Saleh, we pulled up outside the Hotel Palu Golden. There were no words.
We paid Cheyenne and shook hands, and wished them well, on their road back to the Poso War. Inside the magnificence of the Palu Golden, none of what we had experienced was on any radar screen. We were checked into one of fifty-five of their three-star rooms, with quiet refinement, and invited to dine in their Ebony restaurant before it closed at ten. We had koktel udang prawn cocktails and Guinness, before returning to our room. There was a stick man sign in the bathroom. Penggunaan kloset yang benar perawatan. Use proper toilet care. I wondered about some of the clientele.
Robyn and I awoke to the sun’s diffused dawn glow on the two swimming pools below, and Palu Bay and the mountains beyond. And the dilemna we had avoided all night. Where do we go from here? How the hell do we get there? And how long would that take? It was still a thousand kilometers from where we were, to our other area of interest in Manado. We needed to fly, if we could, and soon.
Robyn and I tripped over each other, down the open marble staircase to reception, to find out. Our desk clerk made several telephone calls. Yes, there were flights to Manado, but only once a week. Yes, it appeared it was today. Yes, there were seats left, but only two. On Robyn’s ticket, she was identified as ‘Robun.’ No one cared.
The Merpati plane was an old Spanish Casa C-212, which had been put together by Dirgantara Indonesia, Indonesian Aerospace. I had never seen those two words nailed together before and, looking at the thing, had to agree that the original Spanish name, house, not only more than described its appearance, but its probable aerodynamic properties as well. And we were not to be disappointed for, despite the fact that our only way out of this part of Kansas was in this flying garage, it soared exactly like the box it was. The first hundred kilometers wasn’t terrible, but when we flew into the mountain ranges of North Sulawesi, we almost flew into the mountain ranges of North Sulawesi. It probably didn’t help that that plane was full, and that no one had weighed the luggage. It probably didn’t help that we had entered a patch of particularly inclement weather and heavy turbulence. But it definitely didn’t help that the lone pilot was making an effort to meet and greet the two foreign passengers, who had chosen to grace his route that very day. He lit up a cigarette in the aisle, while his aircraft played handball with the sky outside. He wanted to know all about us. I wanted to know who was flying the house.
“Autopilot.” He said proudly, blowing Kansas from between his yellow teeth. We entered the tornado in the Wizard of Oz, when he excused himself for ‘something important.’ To our relief, he headed back to the cockpit, and we slowly, very slowly, found level flight.
Things didn’t go much better on the ground, after Robyn and I left Central Sulawesi. In 2003, ‘unknown masked gunmen’ killed thirteen Christian villagers in Poso District. Two years later, Palu suffered both a 6.2 Richter scale earthquake, and a Muslim nail bomb at a market stall selling pork to Christian Minihasa for New Year’s eve celebrations, killing eight people and wounding another 53. The same year someone killed another 22 Christians with a bomb in Tentena’s public market, and Islamic militants in Poso beheaded three Christian schoolgirls.
The message found next to one of the heads was fairly clear.
A life for a life. A head for a head.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Headhunting In Kansas 9

The black Land Cruiser was waiting outside the Intim at daybreak. Cheyenne was clearly anxious to begin. His associates sat in the front beside him, and Robyn and I piled into the back seat. We had arranged to stop at the Salopa waterfalls, a diversion that would take valuable time, but we didn’t want to miss it. There were white sandy beaches and butterflies, and then a long walk through rice fields and winding lanes, to a crystal clear series of pools, cascades, and falls, in a beautifully serene and unspoilt forest. We had paradise to ourselves.
Cheyenne turned the Toyota north, towards Poso. There were far too frequent roadblocks, and conversations with paramilitary officers checking documents, that seemed longer than necessary, for a simple chartered vehicle hire.
As we passed through one small town, there was a kind of street commotion we hadn’t seen before. Shirtless men, wide-eyed with anger, carried machetes in threatening poses, and shouted even more incoherently than they should have been, if we could have understood the language. Some appeared to be drunk. The smell of fear and blood and diesel was in the air. Cheyenne put his right foot down. I looked back to see a dark ridge of mountains, towering palm trees, and burning houses. Two bamboo tubes of sweet glutinous Burassa black rice came over the front seat, from the flip-flop friends.
“Very dangerous.” Said Cheyenne. He was driving us through the opening salvos of the Poso War, and Robyn and I had no idea what that even was. We knew about Muslim-Christian violence in the Moluccas, but not what had just roared into flames behind and ahead of us, on the Trans-Sulawesi. Tentena was red zone Christian; down on the coast was the enemy. The white zone Muslims controlled coastal Poso town and much of the lowlands. The substrate for the conflict began, as in Tanatoraja, when the Dutch established colonial control of Tentena’s Pamona headhunters in 1892, and offered them free lifetime membership in the Central Sulawesi Christian Church. But this also opened the door to nearby coastal settlement by Muslim fishermen from other parts of Sulawesi. After independence, the Indonesian government compounded the problem by transmigrating Balinese Hindus, and granting tracts of local farmland to Muslims from Java. The demographic tectonic plates began to grind against each other in the corrupt competition for local administrative control and employment, with the Muslims outflanking the Christians for all the choice positions. The flashpoint ignited by an argument about Christian youths drinking alcohol near the mosque in Poso. And Robyn and I hadn’t even got there yet.
The Christian retaliation would come behind us, five months later. A group that claimed to be defending its ancestral home, would launch itself in Tentena. They called themselves the Black Bats, because ‘the black bats move at night, black is the color of war, and bat soup is a local delicacy.’ Dressed in black masks and capes, they terrorized Muslim cocoa and coconut plantations, kidnapped and executed hundreds of young Muslim boys, and left their bodies in local rivers and creeks. Many were missing their heads. Poso's Muslims would not eat fish for months.
The two sides fought with spears and bows and arrows, and homemade guns welded together from bits of spare piping, deadly to a range of over 250 feet. Paramilitary police weighed in on the Muslim side, with more automatic weapons. Over 1,000 people were killed in the violence, riots, and ethnic cleansing. And they were only warming up. In August of 2001, a branch of the Laskar Jihad ‘Warriors of Jihad’ declared open warfare, and dispatched fighters to Poso, equipped with AK-47s, grenade and rocket launchers, bulldozers and tanker trucks. The resultant scorched-earth campaign destroyed dozens of Christian villages, and pushed fifty thousand refugees into Tentena. In a supreme contest of eelimination, they would become a vigilante mini-state fortress, hemmed in by Muslims from the north, and from the south.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Headhunting in Kansas 8

  “What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and his words! His
     real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself.”
                                                                                       Mark Twain

The Trans-Sulawesi Highway was a little like the Trans-Canada Highway. Not much, as it turned out. There were violent forces of chaos on the Trans-Sulawesi, just over the horizon. I swear I had no idea, or I would not have brought Robyn.
The first clue should have been the absence of foreign tourists on our Batutumonga express. The second should have been the absence of locals. There was Robyn and I, and a couple of official looking government types from Jakarata, sitting in the front of the big multicolored Mercedes, making the ten-hour drive to Tentena, a town on the northern shore of Danau Poso. They weren’t making any money from us.
Lake Poso is the third largest lake in Indonesia, over half a kilometer above sea level, and famous for its profusion of wild orchids, including a black one. Tentena was also renowned for two-meter long monstrous eels and, after ten hours inside the Batutumonga Express, we were ready for a feed of several centimeters. We entered the small town on the Poso River, both sides of which were connected by a blue and yellow bridge. Blue and yellow horizontal stripes decorated large vertical flags outside each household, and blue and yellow and red outriggers lined the sandy lakeshore. It was a blue and yellow kind of lakeside resort town.
There were V-shaped eeltraps, and where there were eeltraps, we reasoned, there were eels. Robyn and I checked into the Hotel Intim Danau Poso, and went to the Lotus restaurant. They were eelated to see us, and served up eelongated eels by hurricane lamp.
On returning to the Intim, we asked the owner what time the bus left for Poso next morning. He looked like we had just hit him with a shovel.
“No bus.” He said, extending out his palms, like a tired Tau-Tau.
“No bus?” Robyn said. “So how do we get to Poso?” Now he looked even more tired.
“No bus. No bemos. No fly. No go Poso.” He said. Robyn and I tried to understand the concept of how it was not possible to get from one place to the next. His wife emerged from behind the curtain.
“Maybe one way, but not stop in Poso.” She said.
“Where then?” I asked.
“Palu.” She said. “You must go all the way to Palu.” My head, still on my shoulders, was beginning to hurt. We could get to Poso, but couldn’t stop in Poso, and had to go all the way to the west coast town of Palu, another 220 kilometers.
“How do we get to Palu?” I asked.
“Toyota.” She said. I nodded. She picked up the phone. Ten minutes later a young man with a ponytail and flipflops, and a packet of Kansas, appeared in the dimly lit reception. He didn’t look Indonesian; he looked Cheyenne. He was with two other flip-flops, a thick tough Chinese wearing a blue and white baseball cap, with a fish-in-mouth raptor emblem on it, and a thin dark younger one, with a single eyebrow. It was Boxing Day, and I heard the bell for the first round. These kind gentlemen would drive us to Palu. It would take all day. We would pay for the trip, and their trip back.
“How much?” I asked.
“Sixty dollars.” Said Cheyenne. And I thought the eels in this town were slippery.
“Forty.” I said.
“Fifty.” He said. “Very dangerous.” Cheyenne’s accomplices shifted ever so slightly on their flip-flops.
“OK.” I said. Whatever. I should have offered them more. Spectacular stars and meteors painted the black out of the dark sky that night, and shimmered on the lake.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Headhunting in Kansas 7

We paid the boys their rupias, and flagged down the same Makale bemo, this time to disembark at the Lemo turnoff, for another two-kilometer trek to another sheer rock face. Big black butterflies with turquoise tails followed behind us. High above were two rectangular cut cave balconies with packed rows of effigies, eyes wide shut looking down, wooden hands with outstretched palms extended to receive offerings, and bestow blessings in return.
They were different carved heights and painted skin tones. One man wore a faded green shirt and jodhpurs. Another woman had a black dress and a red bandana. But there were common qualities to all the Tau-Tau. Their bags for traveling into the next world may have slung over their shoulders, but their clothes were tattered, and their expressions were emotionless, vacant. They looked tired.
They should have been, for the sights they had seen on their horizon. And the songs they had heard.

                                      Kaloe’ sambali’ Manda’
                                      Pentia’ lambe’ko mai
                                      Lakiperapi onimmu
                                    Parrots over there on the Manda’
                                    Fly long and far on the way here
                                    We’re going to take up your song.

From the time a raid was planned, the expedition members were placed under a strict prohibition against eating foods made from palm or bamboo. The men commonly wore necklaces of octopus shells, which had to have been imbued with efficacy by a woman or no heads would be taken. The shells must have still been dripping with seawater at the time of the rite. The Toraja equated the dribbling seawater with the ejaculation of semen.
All warriors carried presents from a woman- a piece of cloth tied around the hilt of his sword, a penis-sized piece of wood, sucked during the raid, menstrual blood obtained by the man inserting his finger into a woman’s vagina, and a tobacco quid taken from between a woman’s breasts while she is sleeping. Sexual interest of any kind during the entire period of the raid was forbidden and would likely result in death. Without the presents, the warrior might not only obtain no heads, but also possibly die. Each man carried special rice prepared by a woman, alone in the middle of the night. The rice must be pure white and none of the grains should be broken. Any breach of protocol would abort the raid.

                                      Malallengko toibirrin
                                      Tomatilampe bambana
                                      Lembum matil langkam borin.

                                    Watch out you on the horizon
                                    You low on the foot of our land
                                    The blackened hawk is heading there.

The departure of the expedition was always at night
From an assault camp men crept into the enemy village and placed ash in a mortar there. They tried to get near enough to a sleeping member of the village to drop ash into their mouth. Under no circumstances was the head to be taken at this stage. The actual assault took the form of a general scrimmage, free of all ritual and rules, but one- it was absolutely forbidden to look at, let alone touch, the genitals of an enemy. This would bring misfortune.
No relative value was placed on male, female or children’s heads, but if too large a number were taken, the surplus was simply thrown away into the bush, on the return journey. (If a warrior lost his own head in the course of a raid, his body was abandoned, and his soul became a dangerous wandering spirit luring other headhunters to the same end.)
The remaining heads on the return trip, carefully carried in the warriors’ arms, were caressed, sung to, addressed and fed pre-chewed banana and other such foods. The warriors, prevented from re-entering their own village, because of their contamination, were fed with ginger by a woman directly into their mouths, and showered with dry rice.
When the men were finally allowed back into the village, they were met by jealous and possessed women, who tried to steal or bite the heads.
Before they returned to their homes, the men were required to sit down with the women seated opposite them and sing various appropriate chants in antiphony, like Pacific Chorus frogs in the spring.

                                      Sambanuami tobalu
                                      Satando’mi ana’bium
                                      Santanetemi u’bu’na.

                       One homestead the place of widows
                                    One hamlet the place of orphans
                                    One mountain the place of the graves.

During the festival which followed, the heads were referred to as ‘Gifts from the Wurake,’ a category of very high spirit, capable of ending a period of mourning. After ‘The Feast of Bamboo Knives,’ in which the villagers attacked and cut the remaining flesh off the head with bamboo knives, the skull of the dead was installed in a special building.
“They look tired.” Said Robyn.
“They are.” I said.
“And some are missing their heads.” She said.
We had an early start in the morning.
“You leave today?” Asked the desk clerk. We nodded in the affirmative.
“You have fun in Tanatoraja?” She asked. We nodded a little less, to keep our heads on.
The name of the bus line ran the entire length of its fusilage. Batutumonga. We left the pristine cultivated valley of cassava and maize, wet rice terraces on the surrounding slopes, and climbed the cloud-covered eastern range of the central mountains. Our driver wove around the cloves and coffee drying in patches on the road, and Robyn and I opened our window to catch the sweet spicy scented alpine air, and views, and the most beautiful butterflies in Kansas.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Headhunting in Kansas 6

We separated from Torajan death traditions next morning, and concentrated on some of their more life-affirming rituals, aware of how corpses are spoiled by combining the two. At least we thought we were being aware.
“You want to have Christmas dinner?” Asked our desk clerk. Yes, indeed, we replied, realizing that it was Christmas Eve. That would be fine.
“Better you have Christmas dinner at the Toraja Coralia.” She said. So we thanked her, and booked in for that evening at the Coralia, on our way to the market. It was market day in Rantepao, with hundreds of huge pigs bound with green cords on green pallets side by side, rows of vendors with multicolored peppers, roosters, kreteks, green bananas, and long beans, more water buffalo with ropes through their noses, and firewood. When Robyn bought a finely made conical hat off the head of one of the elderly ladies in the clothing bazaar, I had the same shiver go up my spine as my purchase of an apron from a lady in Dali, many Chinese moons before. We drank Torajan coffee in glasses, and then I took her picture wearing her new headgear in a nearby bamboo grove, with shoots as wide as my arm.
The bemos near the market followed the universal general rule that the cheaper the fare, the more crowded and slower the ride. The boundary conditions for Robyn and I had been in a market in Nha Trang in the old Vietnam days, where two cents got us a ride to nowhere, all day long. The ten cents we paid in Rantepao got us almost nowhere in less than half the time.
Where we got to were some of the best examples of tongkonan architecture in Tanatoraja, immense thatch and woven bamboo houses with tremendous upswept high gabled buffalo horn roofs, facing north toward the home of the old gods, with a carved buffalo head talisman at the front. Large boulders loomed out of the mist at the base of each of the pilings. The long poles in front were nailed with a long column of water buffalo horns, arranged from the biggest at the bottom, to the smallest at the top.
The colors were Torajan colors of black death, yellow blessings from the gods, white purity, and red human life. The last also took the form of barefoot boys and their puppies playing on the thick tongkonan floor planks, or little ones peeking out of secret small window spaces above us, the tiny doors carved on the inside with roosters and an all-seeing eye.
Downhill on the right from this cluster of tongkonan, in another bamboo thicket, was a large tree with more small doors cut in it. Behind these doors, however, pegged shut, were the remains of children who died before their teeth had come in. The tree had absorbed these children and, when cut with a knife, it dripped white sap.
“Like milk.” Robyn said.
“Like milk.” I agreed.
We continued down the track past rice paddies and arching spumes of bamboo, into a forest across bamboo bridges. Half split bamboo canes, lain end to end within each other, brought water splashing into a bucket beside an isolated house a hundred meters further down the trail. We emerged at a crystal pool surrounded by limestone boulders and silence. Silent night. We made the bemo back to Rantepao in time for Christmas dinner.
“Today you go see Tau-Tau?” she asked, next morning. Robyn and I nodded our head affirmatively. Today was Tau-Tau day.
“See them now.” She said. “Soon all gone.” And she was right. The Tau-Tau were life-sized wooden effigies of noble takapua dead, sacred to living relatives who believed that they could bestow blessings and grant favors. Costing a year’s wages to bring into being, Tau-Tau were also worth a year’s wages to unscrupulous purveyors for the primitive art market, who stole more of the remaining figures every year, and caused many families to remove them into their homes.
The Makale bound bemo dropped us off at the Londa turnoff, and a two-kilometer stroll the caves. Small boys were waiting with lanterns and entrepreneurial spirit. They were determined to give us our money’s worth, and dragged us crawling through the claustrophobic warren of tight tunnels of skulls and long bones, spilling out of piled up coffins, some shaped like boats, intricately carved, and decayed. Sartorial sarong-garbed Tau-Tau statues guarded another part of the vault.
“Romeo and Juliet.” Said one of the urchins, pushing the maxillary teeth of two of the skulls together for additional effect, and earning a ripple of nervous laughter from his other colleagues. They walked us back out along the checkerboard mud dikes of rice terraces to a waterworn limestone cliff face wall. Gazing out from a vertiginous height, was a row of weathered mannequins. One had his sarong flung over his right shoulder. Something protruded from his lower lip, even at a distance. Welcome to Kansas.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Headhunting in Kansas 5

The Dutch had ignored the Torajans for two whole centuries because access was difficult, they had little productive agricultural land and, behind well-defended walled hilltop fortresses, were serious slavers and headhunting warriors. What finally provoked the military colonial response was increasing Dutch concern about the spread of Islam in South Sulawesi, especially among the Bugis and Makassarese. In 1909 they drew a line around the Sa’dan area, and called it Tana Toraja, the ‘Land of the Toraja.’ They sent in the Reformed Missionary Alliance of the Dutch Reformed Church, to Christianize the Aluk tribes as a counterbalance. They angered the Torajans by abolishing slavery, by moving them to the valleys, and by taxing them severely. Despite, or because of, all the love, only about ten per cent of the Torajans had converted to Christianity. What got them the other ninety percent was the Darul Islam separatist attacks that forced them to finally ally with the Dutch for protection. In 1965 the Indonesian government recognized five religions. It took four more years for the Torajan Aluk to Dolo ancestral way to join the list.
“You should go to a funeral.” Said the clerk at the desk next morning. “I will find you one.” And she picked up the phone and began speaking to girlfriends in the same whiney lilt that sails on Malay lips, from Singapore to Mindanao.
“OK.” I said, looking at Robyn. She looked back the same way.
“Go and have some breakfast, and some Kopi Toraja coffee.” Said the clerk. “Then come back to see me.” We went for breakfast and some Kopi Toraja coffee, across from a Bugi businessman. Something upset him about having to be here.
“The Toraja are infidels.” He whispered. “Be careful not to attend any of their celebrations. They will slaughter pigs and serve you alcohol.” We thanked him for his advice, and returned to reception.
“You must go by Kansas.” Said the desk clerk. At least that’s what we thought she said.
“You must go buy Kansas.” She said, again. “Or a carton of Kreteks. Cigarettes.”
“Cigarettes?” Robyn asked.
“Yes.” She said. “As a gift to the bereaved family.” So Robyn and I bought a carton of Kansas, and went to the funeral.
“Follow the smoke.” She had said, when we asked how we would find it. Follow the smoke. But it wasn’t from Kansas. It was from the food fires, inside the large rante compound. Robyn and I presented our carton of Kansas, and were quietly welcomed onto a grassy field of shelters, rice barns, and other ceremonial funeral structures by beautifully costumed young women with beaded antimacassars. I looked back to find our cigarettes already in circulation. The guest of honor was lying prone, wrapped in layers of cloth, atop the highest pavilion, supervising the preparations for his forthcoming long trip to Puya, the Land of Souls, from the treetops. One of his disciples instructed the proceedings through a microphone connected to the megaphone under his arm by a coiled serpent. A line of women in rose-peach dresses arrived and passed us, leading with the food bundles in their outstretched arms, crossing yet another in equally colorful garments, serving coffee and cakes, like competing teams of the half time show at the funerary Olympics. Our own contribution to the observance paled in comparison to the endless procession of gigantic trussed pigs, suspended from horizontal bamboo poles under their necks, steered by a man on each side that joined hundreds of others, left squealing and shitting in the muddy antechamber of their fate. There were scores of water buffalo, tethered by ropes through their noses, others wandering randomly and others yet, fighting, prodded on by the chile up their backsides.
Robyn and I entered a sea of conical hats. We joined hundreds of sarongs, spread on the pavilion floors, or the ground, eating chunks of seared pork and vegetables and glutinous burassa rice out of bamboo tubes, and drinking glasses of fermented tuak. Some were watching a bulangan londong cockfight, a sacred requirement to spill blood on the earth. Robyn knows how stimulus-averse I am to animal cruelty, and we quickly turned our eyes away.
But away didn’t work so well either. Torajans think of the dead as being sick, and stuck in the living world, until their real demise is actuated by a tomabalu funeral specialist’s dispatch of a buffalo. They believe that the deceased rides this buffalo to Puyo, and so it must be strong for the coming difficult journey over hundreds of mountains and valleys. They believe he will get there faster if he has many buffalo, although the biophysical logic of this is highly disputable. It didn’t matter much to this man’s tomabalu, who pulled the animal by the rope through his nose and, with a sharpened machete, quickly slashed the animal’s throat. Young boys ran to catch the spurting blood in long bamboo tubes, which were then cooked as a sort of blood pudding over an open fire.
The butchering was done fast, the horns removed for the vertical collection attached to the pole on the front of the family house, and the buffalo roasted and eaten by the funeral guests. The boys who collected the blood clapped their hands and performed a bizarre cheerful Ma’dondan dance.
The number of animals slaughtered is proportional to the man’s social status in life, and his age at death. At some funerals, up to a hundred have been immolated. Before the Dutch arrived, slaves or prisoners were also sacrificed, to provide servants in the afterlife. Inheritance goes proportionately to the child who slaughters the most buffalos. Sacrificed animals that had been given as ‘gifts’ by guests, are carefully noted as a debt to the lamented's family. I figured we were square.
Several buffalo carcasses, as well as their heads, were lined up on the field waiting for this owner. And then began the Ma’badong.
A company of men in black sarongs assembled in a ring, shoulder to shoulder, and began a slow circular dance and monotonous chanting. A reenactment of the cycle of life and the life story of the deceased brother, the Ma’badong would go on all night. This would be followed by other music and songs and poems and dances- the Ma’randing warrior dance would be done to praise the courage of the fallen one, with a large shield made from a buffalo skin, a helmet with a buffalo horn, and a sword. Elderly women in long feathered raiments would sing poems while dancing the Ma’katia. And the Ma’akatia would be danced to remind us all about the generosity and loyalty of our Torajan benefactor.
But Robyn and I left the ceremony. We took one last look at the shrouded pupa in the tall pavilion, and the beheaded water buffalo on the grassy knoll. It teemed down with rain. Follow the smoke.