Toraja: Misadventures of an Anthropologist in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Toraja: Misadventures of an Anthropologist in Sulawesi, Indonesia

Nigel Barley

Language: English

Pages: 137

ISBN: 2:00339374

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 1985, Dr. Nigel Barley, senior anthropologist at The British Museum, set off for the relatively unknown Indonesian island of Sulawesi in search of the Toraja, a people whose culture includes headhunting, transvestite priests and the massacre of buffalo. In witty and finely crafted prose, Barley offers fascinating insight into the people of Sulawesi and he recounts the tale of the four Torajan woodcarvers he invites back to London to construct an Indonesian rice barn in The British Museum. Previously published as "Not a Hazardous Sport".













on the charms of the local women had been written on the mattress in biro. Puzzling over some of the terms, I fell asleep. I awoke to find a twelve-year-old Melanesian girl standing over me and laughing. A hallucination? Unlikely. I said good morning. ‘Good evening,’ I was corrected. Then Pak Ambon entered, leading by the hand a small, dark boy and carrying what looked like a collapsible cake-stand. ‘I have brought you food. My grandchildren did not believe me when I told them about you, so I

side. Above the trees appeared the roof of a house, a ponderous curved structure of wooden tiles. Torajan houses are justly famous. They are huge constructions of wood, raised off the ground on stilts, cunningly jointed and pegged, their whole surface magnificently carved and painted in intricate designs, buffalo heads, birds, leaves. They may be hundreds of years old and are the fixed points by which people work out their personal relationships. They face north, the direction associated with

Johannis promptly made for the kitchen to be able to hear better and stood with one ear pressed to the flimsy partition, grinning and nodding, infuriatingly unwilling to translate. Finally, he consented to do so with great glee. It appeared that the cousin had been detected, after drinking much palm-wine, heading for the bamboo with another woman from the village. The lady was of bad reputation. Her mother had been friendly with Japanese soldiers during the war. She was rumoured to have a

spoken of as ‘having a headache’. In Baruppu’ they do not do this, but have a further refinement. The word for a rice-barn is alang. The bier on which the dead body is transported to the tomb is made in the form of a rice-barn but of throwaway materials – paper and plywood. It is called an alang-alang. The rice-barn then is the device that shunts people from one ritual position to another. The reversal of directions is appropriate. Yet this explanation too seems inadequate. Nenek gave me a lot

Torajan buildings. How had it got there? Had it been stolen from the Torajans? They were all for rushing up and asking the Minister at once. We went on a day trip to Oxford, an extremely unfriendly and unwelcoming place to the visitor. Most sites of interest were firmly shut against them. As usual, it proved difficult to gain admission to a pub in order to get out of the rain, and everyone in the catering trade was astonished at people wanting to eat on a Sunday. The trip was redeemed by one

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