Editor’s note: This story consists of images that some readers might discover troubling.

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As a host, 90- year-old Alfrida Lantong is rather passive. Lying resolutely on her back and looking up through a set of thick, dirty eyeglasses, she roundly disregards her boy’s murmured welcoming as he goes into the space and pays little follow to the gaggle of grandchildren clustered around her.

However Alfrida can barely be blamed for her unresponsiveness. After all, she has actually been dead for the last 7 years.

Grandchildren of Alfrida Lantong, who passed away in 2012, visit her in her casket at the household’s house near Rantepau, a town in the Sulawesi area of Indonesia.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Grandchildren of Alfrida Lantong, who passed away in 2012, visit her in her casket at the household’s house near Rantepau, a town in the Sulawesi area of Indonesia.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Alfrida comes from the Toraja individuals of southern Sulawesi in Indonesia, for whom the line in between life and death is not black and white. Though her heart stopped beating in 2012, as far as her household is worried, she is just ” to macula,” which equates loosely as “ill.” They still visit her routinely, speak with her and bring her 3 meals a day, which they leave on the flooring.

After biding farewell, Alfrida’s boy, Mesak, covers her with a light veil and closes the cover of her casket prior to leaving the space. He will visit her once again at suppertime. “We would miss her if she didn’t still live here,” states the 47- year- old. “She cared for us our entire lives, so now it is essential that we take care of her too.”

Mesak holds an image of his mom, Alfirda, who passed away in2012

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Mesak holds an image of his mom, Alfirda, who passed away in 2012.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Beyond her quiet friendship, among the factors Alfrida still deals with her household is that even after 7 years, preparations for her funeral service are not yet total. In Torajan culture, an individual’s funeral service is the most crucial day of his/her life. Funeral services can be so costly that succeeding generations will be encumbered debilitating financial obligation. The occasions can last a week and include the massacre of numerous animals.

” We require more time to conserve,” states Mesak, whose household comes from what he calls the “honorable” class in the stratified Torajan caste system. “The neighborhood would not appreciate us if we did a little funeral service. We need to compromise numerous buffalo.”

Toraja nation goes for numerous miles throughout the mountainous interior of Sulawesi, a land of verdant hills and spread towns linked by a network of dirt tracks that wind their method through rich rice paddies and spots of thick forest. It is an enclave of Christianity in a mainly Muslim nation, although standard beliefs stay common. Particularly when it concerns death.

Throughout the majority of the world, death is a subject that typically motivates fear. It marks the unexpected and irreparable rupture of an individual from their liked ones. Even if one thinks in an afterlife, the instant severing of the connection in between the dead and the living is outright. When anthropomorphized in pop culture, death is typically portrayed as a malicious entity, the ominous black-cloaked figure clutching a scythe.

Not so in Tana Toraja. Here, death is not something to avoid. It is an all-pervading existence in everyday life, engraved into the landscape in spooky wood “tau-tau” statues, commissioned by the dispossessed to keep in mind the dead, and into the social calendar, which revolves greatly around funeral services.

Death is even main to the economy: Households typically conserve for years so they can pay for the fancy exchange of presents, cash and newly butchered meat that happen throughout the occasions, which are viewed as a crucial ways of rearranging wealth in Toraja society.

Death supplies incomes for countless individuals here, both in the tourist sector and in funeral-related companies. That consists of the farmhands who take care of the exorbitantly costly sacrificial buffaloes, the dining establishments and hotels emerging in Rantepau, and the craftsmens who craft the wood tau-tau statues that decorate the tombs.

These statues– which vary in look from extremely elegant to disconcertingly natural– are a popular function of the caverns, outcrops and cliffs that dot the countryside. For Jeffrey Maguling, a young tau-tau carver whose household has actually remained in business for 4 generations, the statues are an art type along with an income source.

Jeffrey Maguling sculpts a tau-tau statue for the household of a just recently deceased female. The tau-tau will wait her tomb.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Jeffrey Maguling sculpts a tau-tau statue for the household of a just recently deceased female. The tau-tau will wait her tomb.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

” I do not simply copy images of the dead individual,” states Maguling, who works from a little wood shack by the roadside south of Rantepau town. “I attempt to catch the individual’s character. It takes me about 10 days to make one.” And he can offer a statuefor about 15 million rupiah, or $1,108

” There’s more need than in my daddy’s time,” he includes. “The population has actually grown, so there are more individuals passing away. It makes me delighted when my customers like the tau-tau. However I will constantly share their unhappiness.”

It’s not that Torajans do not grieve their liked ones. However the procedure is softened by the progressive– and relentless– nature of the shift from one world to another in Toraja cosmology. Even after individuals are buried, they are not actually gone. Their tau-tau continue to stand high on their cliff-top perches, permanently surveying the dynamic land of the living listed below.

In some neighborhoods, to lionize, the dead are exhumed every couple of years and worn fresh clothing, typically with a brand-new set of sunglasses, as if their pride over their look had actually not ended with their bodies.

And when a child passes away, the body is often buried in a hole took of the trunk of a tree, so that the 2 might reside on and grow together.

When a Torajan child passes away, the kid is often buried inside the trunk of a tree in the hope that he will continue to grow with the tree.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

When a Torajan child passes away, the kid is often buried inside the trunk of a tree in the hope that he will continue to grow with the tree.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

In a town near Alfrida Lantong’s house, set on a high hillside above a sea of dazzling, apple-green rice paddies, another Torajan household is making last-minute preparations for their wedding day. The “ill” guy, Lucas Ruruk, was a farmer from among the middle social classes. His funeral service will be of typical size by Torajan requirements. Yet the household is still anticipating 5,000 visitors and price quote that the occasion, which will last numerous days, will cost approximately 250 million Indonesian rupees (around $18,000). That’s approximately 5 times Indonesia’s typical annual earnings.

Suande, whose uncle passed away a month formerly, lays a fabric over his casket on the eve of the funeral service.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Suande, whose uncle passed away a month formerly, lays a fabric over his casket on the eve of the funeral service.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

” We’re unfortunate about the funeral service,” stated Ruruk’s 28- year-old boy, Izak Sapan. “However it is the most crucial day in my daddy’s life. It is when his soul will make the journey to paradise.”

His daddy lies upstairs in his bed room, dressed immaculately in a dark fit and tie and a white t-shirt with flower styles on the collar. He passed away a month formerly and has actually been lying here getting visitors since. Quickly after death, his body was injected with a formaldehyde option to avoid it from decaying, as is the regional customized.

Lucas Ruruk, who passed away over a month previously, depends on his short-lived casket on the eve of his funeral service, which will be participated in by numerous thousand individuals.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Lucas Ruruk, who passed away over a month previously, depends on his short-lived casket on the eve of his funeral service, which will be participated in by numerous thousand individuals.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

The next early morning, Ruruk’s house is a scene of pandemonium. Trussed-up pigs are brought in screeching on bamboo stretchers while suppliers established stalls by the entryway selling sodas, treats and cigarettes to the showing up visitors. As the occasion gets underway, buffaloes are led out to have their throats slit in front of a transfixed crowd. A DJ plays regional ballads and a group of females carry out standard dances as the ground gradually turns scarlet with blood. A video team employed by the household tape-records the scene.

Observers, consisting of numerous travelers, view as a buffalo and a pig are butchered for the funeral service of 65- year-old Lucas Rorok, who passed away a month formerly. Torajan funeral services have actually ended up being a popular traveler destination.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Observers, consisting of numerous travelers, view as a buffalo and a pig are butchered for the funeral service of 65- year-old Lucas Rorok, who passed away a month formerly. Torajan funeral services have actually ended up being a popular traveler destination.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

So too do roughly 100 travelers, both regional and global, clutching electronic cameras as they track behind their guides. The concept of travelers taking a trip numerous miles to participate in a complete stranger’s funeral service might appear rather disconcerting. However on the whole, their existence is invited by Torajan households, who think that a well-attended funeral service bestows honor on the deceased.

” We more than happy that numerous immigrants have actually come,” states the dead guy’s nephew, Suande. “It indicates we can share our unhappiness with many individuals, and it lionizes for my uncle.”

Visitors get to the funeral service of Lukas Ruruk in a town near the Indonesian town of Rantepau. The household defines it as a medium-sized funeral service– with well over 1,000 guests.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.


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Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

Visitors get to the funeral service of Lukas Ruruk in a town near the Indonesian town of Rantepau. The household defines it as a medium-sized funeral service– with well over 1,000 guests.

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville.

The location has actually turned into one of the most significant traveler locations on the island of Sulawesi. August is an especially hectic time for regional guesthouses, with a rise of travelers showing up to view the “manene” occasion, throughout which bodies are gotten rid of from their tombs, re-dressed in fresh clothing and often brought around the town prior to being laid back to rest for another couple of years.

On a current Monday, travelers streamed like ants up and down a high track holding on to the side of a cliff in the town of Kete Kesu, where numerous bodies were buried. They ogled the stacks of skulls and bones that lay in hollowed-out wood tree-trunks along the path and utilized their cellular phone to illuminate the within burial caverns. Some presented for images next to the remains, uncertain whether to smile or look severe.

Back in Alfrida Lantong’s family, the unlimited conserving continues. Her boy approximates that the occasion will cost over a billion rupiah (about $73,800).

” However we do not even think of the expense,” Mesak states. “She will be taking a trip to the world of the soul, and we need to send her off in our own method. It is our Torajan culture. It is what we do.”

Tommy Trenchard and Aurélie Marrier d’Unienville are independent photojournalists based in Cape Town, South Africa. is an independent photojournalist. They have actually formerly worked together on jobs varying from preservation failed in Uganda to the altering lives of Indonesia’s sea wanderers and the battle versus ISIS in Iraq.