Far from the idea of forever separation, Toraja Tau-tau knew as dead amongst the living. Where death is merely a veil through which the living can connect with their deceased loved ones still well past the grave. To the Torajans, death and the completion of its rituals are important. Embraced as gradual steps for the deceased to walk on, in order to eventually unite with their ancestors. Tana Toraja is found within the mountainous region of South Sulawesi. The indigenous ethnic group so rich in culture and rituals has a particularly well-known funeral ceremony.
The Creation of Tau-tau
Along with their extensive rituals, the creation of Tau-tau is significant to Torajan funerals. Made of carved bamboo or wood, created to represent the perished loved ones amongst the people of Toraja. It is a reminder that even in worlds apart the dead is ever-present and protecting the living. Carved to imitate the likeness of the deceased. Clothed and equipped with small possessions for the dead to bring, to aid their journey to the afterlife. This includes creating Tau-tau with materials that suit the social status of the person who has passed away. To Aluk Todolo, the Torajan belief, the spirit will be stranded, wandering between the two worlds.
Process of Creating
The process of creating Tau-tau is a detailed ritual. It started from selecting and felling a wooden tree according to where the deceased was placed in the social hierarchy. Lower-class Torajans must use bamboo for their Tau-tau. Where the Jackfruit tree is reserved for royalties. The carving process is done near the body of the deceased. Once completed, the effigy is dressed in a traditional costume for the funeral ceremony. In addition, the head is decorated with ornaments, gold or silver pieces filled with purses, and other heirlooms. After the funeral ceremony, Tau-taus are eventually placed on a balcony over the cliff, or on the outer part of the cave in which the body of the deceased may lay forever.
Whereas, the spirit is believed to continue to live on through the Tau-tau. Eternally present, guarding the land of Toraja.