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The Walking Dead Festival of Sulawesi, Indonesia

Once someone passes away, it’s time to let go and leave that person underground – literally and figuratively. But in the highlands of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, Toraja families open their dead loved ones’ coffins every year to meet them again and celebrate.

The celebration is called Ma’nene. The annual festival done every August allows the living to meet their dead families and friends, even dead babies and children. The festival runs for three days.

A walk of the dead around the village

After digging up every corpse, families will wash them and dress them up like how they used to when they’re alive.

The Toraja families then take their groomed corpses for a walk through the village.

The festival isn’t meant to be scary nor sad. Everyone should celebrate and have fun!

Wearing smiles instead of tears is a way for the Toraja people to respect the dead. Being with them again even after death is a moment of joy everyone needs to celebrate.

The walk with the dead is also a way for the people to honor those who’ve passed away with hopes of having a good harvest in return.

Corpses are washed and groomed before going out for their annual walk

After walking, Torajans sacrifice buffaloes and pigs as an offering to the dead.

Torajans are an ethnic group indigenous to the mountains of South Sulawesi. They’re known for their view on death as a part of life which isn’t something to be sad about.

Funerals are rather a celebration and they can get big and expensive. They can even last for months or years.

After death, a Torajan is embalmed. But instead of getting buried underground, he/she goes back home and stays there with the family. The people at home will still talk and offer food to the dead as if it’s still alive. For them, the dead is “to macula” or a sick person, but his/her soul remains with them.

Living with the dead as if it’s still alive

What’s even more interesting about the Torajans’ view on death is its continuous existence through the years with the funeral practices known to exist since the 9th century A.D.

The tradition even remains even when the Torajans are now mostly practicing Protestants and Roman Catholics – while being in a country where the majority is Muslim.

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