Most people don’t like to think or talk about death, but for the people of the Toraja region of Sulawesi, in Indonesia, the dead are a constant part of day-to-day life.
Traditionally the dead are buried or cremated within days of passing away, but the Torajan people keep the bodies of their relatives at home with them, sometimes for years after their deaths.
They provide the corpses with their own rooms, they are washed and their clothes are regularly changed. Food and cigarettes are brought to them twice a day and they have a bowl in the corner that acts as their toilet.
The bodies of the dead are injected with a preservative called Formulin, which stops the bodies from decomposing.
To people outside the tribe, the idea of keeping a dead man’s body on show at home feels quite weird. Yet for more than a million people from this part of the world, it’s a tradition dating back centuries with animist beliefs. The doctrine that every natural thing in the universe has a soul – the line between this world and the next world is blurred.
After someone dies, it may be months, sometimes years, before a funeral takes place. In the meantime, the families keep their bodies in the house and care for them as if they were sick.
The deceased are never left on their own and the lights are always left on for them when it gets dark.
Other than tradition, another major reason why the families take such good care of the corpses is because they fear that if they don’t take care of the corpses properly, the spirits of their departed loved ones will give them trouble.