Faces of To­raja

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Between The Lines - WORDS & PHO­TOS PJ LEO

The faces of the To­raja peo­ple, when closely ob­served, are not much dif­fer­ent from the faces of Asians, es­pe­cially East Asians. Although there is no de­fin­i­tive re­search on their ori­gins, many be­lieved they hail from the Gulf of Tonkin, sit­u­ated be­tween north­ern Viet­nam and south­ern China.

To­ra­jans will also say they are of Chi­nese de­scent. The story goes that from 1,500 to 2,500 years AD they ar­rived on the K-shaped is­land of Su­lawesi by some form of boat.

In the mountains of Su­lawesi, they con­structed houses re­sem­bling boats, the places they resided on the beach from their places of origin and where they orig­i­nally lived upon their ar­rival on the is­land. The shape of the houses re­mains the same un­til to­day, fac­ing to the north in the di­rec­tion their an­ces­tors came from.

The To­ra­jans made the ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion to move from the coast to higher ground, liv­ing in the En­rekang area near Kan­dora moun­tain. The name To­raja was given by the Bugis Si­den­dereng peo­ple and also the Luwu. The name is de­rived from “To”, mean­ing peo­ple, and “Ri­aja”, liv­ing in a higher land, with the Luwu call­ing the To Ra­jang “the peo­ple liv­ing in the west”.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cul­ture and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, in its book Tra­di­tional Cer­e­monies of South­ern Su­lawesi (1861-1982), there are var­i­ous view­points on how the name To­ra­jan was de­rived:

1. The To­raja name is from “To-Ri­aja”, mean­ing peo­ple (To) and Ri­aja (north­ern­ers). The name refers to the peo­ple who live in the south of To­ra­jans, the Bugis.

2. To­raja comes from “To-Ra­jang”, for the “To” and “Ra­jang”, or west­ern peo­ple. It refers to the Luwu peo­ple who place “Tana To­raja” (To­raja Land) in the west.

3. To­raja is also said to be de­rived from “ToRaya”, or “eastern peo­ple”. It orig­i­nates from the peo­ple of Makas­sar who place Tana To­raja in the east.

4. To­raja is from “To-Raja” — mean­ing the peo­ple of the south; it is said the king of South Su­lawesi ac­knowl­edged his line of de­scent from Ton­dok Le­pon­gan Bu­lan Tana Matari (To­raja).

The name To­raja was be­stowed by the Dutch colonists in 1909. There is not only his­tory, but also the le­gacy of the To­ra­jans as peo­ple who con­tinue to pre­serve their tra­di­tions. In un­der­stand cul­ture, we will also bet­ter un­der­stand the cul­tures of our own land and gain a greater tol­er­ance be­tween eth­nic­i­ties and cul­ture to in­crease our aware­ness of their preser­va­tion.

Home mu­sic: Peli­pus Ran­dan plays a tra­di­tional karombi in­stru­ment made out of bam­boo and played by pulling a thread placed on its tip.

Rit­ual: In their tra­di­tional cos­tumes, men and women of To­raja wait to wel­come tourists in Su­loara’ vil­lage.

Open­ing up: A To­ra­jan woman poses from in­side a Tongko­nan tra­di­tional house in Su­loara’ vil­lage.

Work in progress: A teenager cre­ates To­raja’s renowned wo­ven fab­ric in Sa’dan and To’Barana in Sa’dan and Mal­im­bong vil­lages in North To­raja.

Morn­ing trip: An old woman, Pa’ku, car­ries food for her live­stock in Lando Run­dun vil­lage, Se­sean Ulu­ara dis­trict in North To­raja.

Col­or­ful: Women of To­raja show­case their tra­di­tional cos­tume when wel­com­ing guests.

Up close: Old and young peo­ple gather to­gether in a vil­lage in To­raja.

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