South Sulawesi

Situated at the crossroads of strategic sea-lanes steeped in history, the province of South Sulawesi consists of the marrow south-western peninsula of this mountainious, orchid-shaped island. The capital and chief trading port. Ujung Pandang, is still the gateway to eastern Indonesia.

Spanish and Portuguese galleons, followed by British and Dutch traders, sail these seas in search of the spice trade, escorted by their men-of-war to protect them from the daring raids of the Bugis and Makasar pirates. Famed for their seafaring culture, the Bugis are still the driving force behind the world's last commercial sailing fleet. Bugis vessels have sailed as far as Australia, leaving behind images of their ships carved in stone, and Bugis would which were integrated into the Aboriginal language of northern Australia.

The seafaring Bugis dominate the shouthern tip of Sulawesi, but in the rugged and remarkable country further north is Tana Toraja, often refered to as the "Land of the Heavenly Kings". The traditional culture of the Torajans rivals any in the archipelago, making this area one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia.

Believing that their forefathers descending from heaven in a boat some twenty generations ago, the Torajas have a unique Christian-animist culture. The majority of the people still follow an ancestral cult called "Aluk Todolo" which governs all traditional ceremonies. Their ancestor worship includes elaborate death and after life ceremonies, which are essentially great feasts. A strict social hierarchy is followed in the village and for important figure wedding and burial ceremonies can take days to perform. Water buffalo and pigs are sacrificed in numbers appropriate to social rank, and the deceased's remind are placed in a coffin and interred in caves hollowed out in high cliffs. The mouth of the cave is guarded by life like status, called Tau Tau, who look out from a balcony near the burial caves, watching over the families and friends they have left behind.

Tongkonan, the family houses, are build on stilts with the roof rearing up at either end, representing the prows of the first ship to arrive in the area with the Torajan ancestors. The houses all face the north and some say that this is because it was from the north that the ancestor of the Toraja came. Other however will say that the norths (and east) are regarded as the realm of the gods, on the compass of life.

South Sulawesi is also famouse for it tremendous scenery and the quality and tallent of its silk and silverwork industries, but the economy is largely based on agriculture. The provincial capital of Ujung Pandang, formerly Makasar, however, has excellent facilities for water sport and is easily accessible by air. There are four daily flights from Jakarta and also daily services from Bali, Surabaya and Manado.

 


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