MAGAZINES

Digging Up Corpses to Groom and Dress

They say the dead live on in our hearts and minds – but in one Indonesian village, the deceased continue to walk the earth in a rather more literal, zombie-like
07 Sep 2014 09:10
Digging Up Corpses to Groom and Dress
Shazran Abdul Lateef outside the magistrate court in Suva on June 17, 2019. Photo: Ashna Kumar

They say the dead live on in our hearts and minds – but in one Indonesian village, the deceased continue to walk the earth in a rather more literal, zombie-like fashion.

Families in Toraja in South Sulawesi dig up the bodies of their dead relatives before washing, grooming and dressing them in fancy new clothes.

Even dead children are exhumed – two of these photos show the skeleton of a baby wrapped in a print dress with a doll laid next to it.

Damaged coffins are fixed or replaced, and the mummies are then walked around the village by following a path of straight lines.

The ritual is called MaiNene, or The Ceremony of Cleaning Corpses, and takes place every August.

According to the ancient Torajan belief system, the spirit of a dead person must return to his village of origin.

So if a person died on a journey, the family would go to the place of death and accompany the deceased back home by walking them back to the village.

In the past, people were frightened to journey far, in case they died while they were away and were unable to return to their village.

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