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A bull fight with a twist

Like any sensible person I strongly oppose animal cruelty, so it was with mixed feelings that I attended the funeral celebrations that included such an event. Out of respect for the local traditions and that it would include ‘something with a statue’ convinced me to go.

The entranced of the statue of he deceased was one fit for a king. A police escort, 100’s of young people on a motorbike, the army and even the wife of the governor were present. The statue of the deceased was of solid concrete, needing more than 30 people for transport once it was loaded off a gigantic Toyota truck.


But then the main event could start: the bullfight! To my great surprise this wasn’t an unfair battle between a human equipped with weapons and a weakened bull, it were two massive buffalo’s that would determine amongst themselves who was the strongest (point of note: I’ve never seen people care so much about their animals as in Toradja). My guide explained that if a buffalo senses that he is weaker than the other he (never a she) won’t fight and flee. Only when they consider themselves equal, they will fight, just like in nature.

Needless to say that I found myself running for my life when one of the buffalos fled the scene in the face of a stronger opponent


The most amazing part of this funeral wasn’t the buffalo fight though. It was the humility of the family of the deceased. This is a family that is extremely well off and in Toraja society this means that everybody in the family is well off. Still, all members of the family served food to each of the attendees, of which nearly nobody had ever spoken to the deceased (the attendees were mostly villagers and 1 tourist: me). When everybody had found a seat for the bullfight, the family was still serving and cleaning up, so no good seating space was available when they turned up. Well mannered as I am, I stood up to offer my seat to one of the elder female members of the family, but my guide quickly pulled me down. He said that the family would rather stand (and not eat) than that any of their guests had a less than perfect experience during the funeral. Later, one of the deceased’ sisters even came to me and apologized for the poor quality of the seating. It takes a great culture to make it members so hospitable and humble.

Below you see about 10% of the temporary structure that was created for the events for this funeral, which will continue throughout the year.


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