A family on an Indonesian island poses for a photo with an elderly relative who can’t smile anymore, while another clan tries to dress one of their oldest ancestors in khakis and a shirt.
But the oldest generation isn’t stuck in a retirement home or holding grudges against their younger relatives — they’re dead.
In two small towns on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, residents celebrate a day-long ceremony called Manene.
Hundreds of corpses are pulled out and clothed in the village of Torea as part of the ritual to honor their spirits and make offerings.
“When we do manene, we would start by opening the burial chamber and cleaning it and its surroundings,” Sulle Tosae, one of the family members, told AFP.
“Then we would dry the bodies under the sun beforehand [we] change their clothes,” he said.
Coffins containing the preserved bodies of their loved ones are pulled from a burial cave carved into the mountainside.
“The offerings are a symbol of the children’s and grandchildren’s gratitude for the deceased,” Rahman Badus, the Torea village chief, told AFP.
They honor their spirit “so that they may always bless the living with security, peace and happiness,” he said.
One family offered their newly exhumed relative a cigarette while another attached stylish sunglasses.
Some of the bodies have remained relatively intact from the mummification process, while others have been reduced to skeletal remains.
– spirits of the dead –
Torajans are an ethnic group numbering about one million people on the island of Sulawesi.
They have no qualms about talking to an embalmed corpse, dressing it up, brushing its hair, or even taking pictures with a mummified relative.
Depending on the village, the Manene usually takes place every few years in July or August.
The Torajan believe that the spirits of the dead linger in the world before their funeral ceremonies and will begin their journey to the land of spirits after their souls have been immortalized.
The families will keep the body until they have saved enough money for a lavish funeral.
The deceased were previously mummified through an embalming process using natural remedies such as acidic vinegar and tea leaves.
But many families are now taking the shortcut by injecting the corpse with a formaldehyde solution.
The dig is a shocking and gruesome scene for western tourists, but residents are more than happy to clean up the bodies, take photos and pray for their souls.
But the village head says some locals have gone too far.
“The corpses must be treated with the utmost respect in the Manene ritual,” said Badus.
“Relatives respect their parents or ancestors, and disrespect has consequences.”
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