SOUTH SULAWESI – Land of the Seafarer
Situated on the crossroad of historical and strategic sea-lanes, the province of South Sulawesi constitutes the narrow southwestern peninsula of this mountainous, orchid-shaped island. The capital and chief trading port of the province, Makassar, is still the gateway to eastern Indonesia.
Spanish and Portuguese galleons, followed by British and Dutch traders sailed these seas in search of the spice trade, escorted by their men of war to protect them against the daring raids of the Bugis and Makassar sailors who attacked the intruders. 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 drawings of their ships on the stone and words that have since been integrated into the Aboriginal language of northern Australia.
The seafaring Bugis dominate the southern tip of Sulawesi, but further north, through rugged and remarkable country is Tana Toraja, often referred to as the “Land of the Heavenly Kings”, whose unique culture rivals any in the archipelago.
A believes that their forefathers descended from heaven on a boat onto a mountain some twenty generations ago, the Torajas have culture based on strong animistic beliefs. They practice an ancestor cult where death and afterlife ceremonies are great feasts. A strict hierarchy is followed in the villages and for an important figure, wedding and burial ceremonies can take days to perform Buffalo are sacrificed, the deceased’s remains are placed in a coffin and interred in caves hollowed out in high cliffs. The mouth of the cave is guarded by lifelike statues, who diligently look out from a balcony at the families and friends they have left.
South Sulawesi is also famous for its tremendous scenery and the quality and talent of its silk and silver industries, but the economy is largely based on agriculture