31 oct 2010

Language, Dance and Music of the Garifuna

A population of mixed origin incorporating cultural elements of indigenous Caribbean and African groups, the Garifuna settled along the Atlantic coast of Central America after being forced to flee from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent in the eighteenth century. Today, Garifuna communities mainly live in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize.
The Garifuna language belongs to the Arawakan group of languages and has survived centuries of discrimination and linguistic domination. It is rich in tales (úraga) originally recited during wakes or large gatherings.The melodies bring together African and Amerindian elements, and the texts are a veritable repository of the history and traditional knowledge of the Garifuna, such as cassava-growing, fishing, canoe-building and the construction of baked mud houses. There is also a considerable amount of satire in these songs, which are accompanied by various drums and dances, which the spectators may join in.
These traditions are still very important to the life and survival of the Garifuna people. The elders are the ones who maintain many of the ceremonies, festivals and oral traditions. However, economic migration, discrimination and the complete absence of the Garifuna language from the school system are endangering its survival. Although the language is still widely spoken, it is now taught in only one village.
Inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2001)

© Text and images: UNESCO

29 oct 2010

A Song for the Horse Nation

Exhibition: A Song for the Horse Nation
14th November 2009 - 7th July 2011, 10 AM - 5 PM daily
Place: National Museum of the American Indian NY, The George Gustav Heye Center, One Bowling Green, New York (US)
Admission:  Free
About the exhibition:
A Song for the Horse Nation presents the epic story of the horse's influence on American Indian tribes from the 1600s to the present. Drawing upon a treasure-trove of stunning historical objects—including ledger drawings, hoof ornaments, beaded bags, hide robes, paintings, and other objects—and new pieces by contemporary Native artists, the exhibition reveals how horses shaped the social, economic, cultural, and spiritual foundations of American Indian life, particularly on the Great Plains.
The story of American Indians and horses is one of the great sagas of human contact with the animal kingdom. The foundation of this extraordinary relationship was laid in 1493, when Christopher Columbus brought the first horses to the Western Hemisphere. As Spaniards surged westward from the Caribbean and northwards from Mexico, American Indians caught their first glimpse of the horse, and soon adopted it into their world. Horses revolutionized Native life and became an integral part of tribal cultures, honored in objects, stories, songs, and ceremonies. By the 1800s, Native American horsemanship was legendary in American culture at large, celebrated in paintings, photographs, Wild West shows, and later in movies and television programs. Today, the image of the mounted Native warrior remains fixed in the American imagination. With traditional and contemporary stories, songs, and poetry and using archival photographs, lithographs, maps, books, magazines, and audio-visual presentations, the exhibition brings the story up to the present, demonstrating that the horse, though no longer ubiquitous, is still venerated in Indian Country today.
This exhibition is an outgrowth of the NMAI publication A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures, edited by George P. Horse Capture and Emil Her Many Horses (2006).

© Text and image: National Museum of the American Indian

27 oct 2010

Caribou goggles

Name: Snow goggles of caribou antler
Origin: Igloolik, northern Canada
Date: before 1822
Museum: British Museum
Dimensions: 12 cm length
'Snow blindness has always been around; from the time of my childhood I always experienced snow blindness once in a while. In those days they used to make snow goggles from wood. My father used to have wooden snow goggles, with slits for opening ... They are very effective as it cuts the light. The openings which are slits are the only light, they really do cut the light from the snow. Inside, the hollow would be darkened with soot'. George Agiaq Kappianaq, 2000
Snow goggles were used by peoples across the North American Arctic from Alaska to Greenland, probably up to two thousand years ago. Snow goggles not only protected the wearer from snow blindness, but due to their optic qualities, some also improved the sight of the wearer.
These goggles are carved from the hard rind of caribou antler. The pair above was collected among the Copper Inuit, the lower pair by William E. Parry on his second voyage in search for the Northwest Passage, probably near Igloolik in 1822. Parry employed Inuit to make snow goggles for his crew '... as the time was fast approaching when some such precaution would become necessary to guard the eyes from the excessive glare of reflected light.'

© Photos and text: British Museum

25 oct 2010

Armenian Harissa

Harissa (Armenian: Հարիսա) is an iconic Armenian dish similar to kashkeg, a kind of homogeneous porridge made of previously stewed and boned chicken and coarsely ground soaked wheat.
The dish has been passed on since ancient times. Harissa is traditionally served on Easter day. It is still prepared by many Armenians around the world and is also considered the national dish of Armenia.

Armenian Harissa
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups whole wheat kernels, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • butter
How to cook it
Rinse chicken and place in large pot with 8 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, with the pot partially covered until chicken is cooked.
Remove chicken from liquid; place on platter and allow to cool enough to handle. Discard skin, bones and fat. Shred chicken; cut into smaller pieces, if necessary.
Strain broth. Measure broth, and add enough water to make a total of 8 cups
Place broth in large pot. Add wheat, shredded chicken, and salt if necessary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Remove any foam which rises to the surface.
Simmer on a very low heat, without stirring, covered, for about 4 hours
Beat vigorously with a sturdy, long-handled, wooden spoon, mashing the wheat and chicken until they resemble thick oatmeal. Adjust salt, if needed.
To serve: place in bowls. Add a pat of butter, if desired. Sprinkle with a dash of cumin or paprika to taste.

© Text and image: Wikipedia / Recipe: www.world-recipes.info  

23 oct 2010


Title: Apocalypto
Director: Mel Gibson
Writer: Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia
Year: 2006
Running time:  140 minutes
Country: United States
Plot summary:
Apocalypto is a 2006 American film directed by Mel Gibson. Set in Yucatan, Mexico, during the declining period of the Mayan civilization, Apocalypto depicts the journey of a Mesoamerican tribesman who must escape human sacrifice and rescue his family after the capture and destruction of his village.
The film, similar to Cornel Wilde's 1966 The Naked Prey features a cast of Mexicans and some Native Americans, and its Yucatec Maya dialogue is accompanied by subtitles.

© Text and photo: Wikipedia

21 oct 2010

The Bontoc of Philippines

Name: Bontoc
Living Area: Central Mountain province, Philippines
Population: 40.000
Language: Bontoc
The Bontocs live on the banks of the Chico River. They are one of the six ethno-linguistic groups of the Igorots, the hill tribes in Luzon.
In the past, the Bontoc engaged in none of the usual pastimes or games of chance practiced in other areas of the country, but did perform a circular rhythmic dance acting out certain aspects of the hunt, always accompanied by the gang′-sa or bronze gong. There was no singing or talking during the dance drama, but the women took part, usually outside the circumference. It was a serious but pleasurable event for all concerned, including the children. Present-day Bontocs are a peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice, retained most of their traditional culture despite frequent contacts with other groups.
The pre-Christian Bontoc belief system centres on a hierarchy of spirits, the highest being a supreme deity called Lumawig. Lumawig personifies the forces of nature and is the legendary creator, friend, and teacher of the Bontoc. A hereditary class of priests hold various monthly ceremonies for this deity for their crops, the weather, and for healing. The Bontoc also believe in the anito —spirits of the dead who must be consulted before anything important is done. Ancestral anitos are invited to family feasts when a death occurs to ensure the well-being of the deceased's soul. This is by offering some small amount of food to show that they are invited and not forgotten.
The Bontoc social structure used to be centred around village wards (ato) containing about 14 to 50 homes. Traditionally, young men and women lived in dormitories and ate meals with their families. This gradually changed with the advent of Christianity. In general, however, it can be said that all Bontocs are very aware of their own way of life and are not overly eager to change.
Well-known by: their tattoos and headhunting
They were once well-known because of their headhunting practices in the olden days but not today. In the previous time, the most distinctive body decoration of the Igorot was the tattoo. The Bontoc describe three types of tattoos: The chak-lag′, the tattooed chest of the head taker; pong′-o, the tattooed arms of men and women; and fa′-tĕk, for all other tattoos of both sexes. Women were tattooed on the arms only.

© Text and images: Wikipedia

17 oct 2010

The Carnival of Binche

The town of Binche is situated south of Brussels in Belgium’s Hainaut province. Each year, during the three days preceding Lent, it is host to carnival festivities that mobilize the historic centre and attract throngs of foreign visitors. With roots dating back to the Middle Ages, Binche’s famed celebration ranks as one of Europe’s oldest surviving street carnivals.
Since the beginning of January, an atmosphere of merry industriousness pervades the town as thousands of Binchois produce lavish costumes and participate in drum rehearsals and themed balls. On Shrove Sunday, which marks the official beginning of the carnival, Binche’s streets and cafés come alive with roving hordes of masqueraded merrymakers. The Mam’selles, men dressed in extravagant female attire, are particularly prominent on this day. The carnival culminates on Mardi Gras, when the legendary Gille characters make their appearance. After an elaborate ceremonial dressing rite, several hundred Gilles sporting red, yellow and black costumes, replete with ostrich-feather hats, wooden clogs, bells and wax masks with small spectacles, parade through the town to the beat of the drum. Pierrots, harlequins and peasants follow the processions, intermingling with costumed revellers and local brass and clarinet bands. Dancers, stirred by traditional tunes played on the viola and drum, perform an assortment of steps including the perennial favourite, fittingly called the pas de Gille. The day’s events reach a climax with the Gilles’ dancing in the Grand Place under fireworks.
The carnival of Binche is a genuinely popular festival renowned for its spontaneity and the substantial financial commitment of its participants. The townspeople take great pride in the celebration and strive to preserve the precious craftsmanship and know-how associated with the carnival’s traditional costumes, accessories, dances and music.
Inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2003)

© Text and images: UNESCO

15 oct 2010

Infinity of Nations

Exhibition: Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian
23 October 2010 - 25 October 2020, 10 AM - 5 PM daily
Place: National Museum of the American Indian NY, The George Gustav Heye Center, One Bowling Green, New York (US)
Admission:  Free
About the exhibition:
This new permanent exhibition of some 700 works of Native art from throughout North, Central, and South America demonstrates the breadth of the museum's renowned collection and highlight the historic importance of many of these iconic objects.
Chosen to illustrate the geographic and chronological scope of the museum's collection, Infinity of Nations opens with a display of headdresses. Signifying the sovereignty of Native nations, these works includes a magnificent Kayapo krok-krok-ti, a macaw-and-heron-feather ceremonial headdress.
Focal-point objects, representing each region, includes an Apsaalooke (Crow) robe illustrated with warriors' exploits; a detailed Mayan limestone bas relief depicting a ball player; an elaborately beaded Inuit tuilli, or woman's inner parka, made for the mother of a newborn baby; a Mapuche kultrung, or hand drum, depicting the cosmos; a carved and painted chief's headdress, depicting a killer whale with a raven emerging from its back, created and worn by Willie Seaweed (Kwakwaka'wakw); an anthropomorphic Shipibo joni chomo, or water vessel from Peru; a Chumash basket decorated with a Spanish-coin motif; an ancient mortar from Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, N.M.; a gourd carved with a detailed picture of the Battle of Arica by Mariano Flores Kananga (Quechua); and an early Anishinaabe man's outfit complete with headdress, leggings, shirt, sash, and jewelry. The exhibition concludes with works by Native artists including Allan Houser (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache) and Rick Bartow (Mad River Wiyot).
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) houses one of the world’s great cultural resources, with collections representing the Native peoples of the Americas from their earliest history to the present day. Infinity of Nations presents more than two hundred of these works chosen from nearly seven hundred objects of cultural, historical, and aesthetic importance on view at the museum’s George Gustav Heye Center in New York. The objects shown here include an exquisite Olmec jade head that dates to between 900 and 600 BC; a superb Moche–Huari tunic (AD 700 to 900); an unparalleled Mexica (Aztec) sculpture of a maize goddess (ca. AD 1500); an exceptionally rare late-18th-century Anishnaabe man’s outfit, and a disquieting sculpture titled Sleeping Man by contemporary artist Bob Hauzous (Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache).
In a departure for the museum, Infinity of Nations is organized geographically. Central to the exhibition are fifty objects highlighted within the regional sections, with brief descriptions written by an impressive new generation of Native scholars and community knowledge-keepers. Many of these iconic objects, like the Diné (Navajo) first phase chief blanket, speak to a people’s history and culture at a certain point in time. Several highlighted objects are associated with prominent Native individuals. Still others, like the pottery plate and candleholders from the mission church at the ancestral A:shiwi (Zuni) village of Hawikku, represent encounters between Natives and non-Natives or moments pivotal in Native history.
Ten singular examples serve as regional focal points. The more detailed expositions of these objects, including a magnificent Apsáalooke (Crow) warrior’s exploit robe and an impressive Maya limestone bas-relief depicting a ball player, further demonstrate the degree to which Native cultures were interconnected long before European peoples arrived in the Americas, and how Native peoples and Europeans together made more recent history.
The conclusion of Infinity of Nations looks at contemporary Native art as a medium for exploring Native experiences and ideas. Throughout, the exhibition illustrates how objects in the museum’s collections can serve as points of entry to understanding other cultures and times.

© Text and image: National Museum of the American Indian

13 oct 2010

Mask wristwatches from Vacheron Constantin

The Collection Métiers d'Art "Les Masques".
Two things convinced Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller of the project's, its beauty and significance as he and the Vacheron Constantin team headed by Juan-Carlos Torres were able to share their common passion for beautiful objects and also the manufacture's philosophy.
Twelve masks were selected from the Barbier-Mueller collection for small-scale reproduction in gold. They repose at the centre of each timepiece in a collection that extends over two thousand years and also four continents.
As Vacheron Constantin understands perfectly well the value of time, the company respected patiently the time needed to create such exceptional pieces. They took plenty of time for questioning, reflection and invention so as to assure themselves that the spirit of this special tribute to ancient societies.
A complete set of the twelve timepieces reproducing the twelve masks - from the limited edition of 300 exceptional timepieces - is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, an exhibition sponsored by Vacheron Constantin and called "A Legacy of Collecting: African and Oceanic Art from the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva" in tribute to Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller.
According to these unique timepieces, each wristwatch is equipped with an automatic Calibre 2460G4 movement, manufactured by Poinçon de Genève, through which time can be read without any hands (by means of a set of wheels and gears, four discs indicate the hours, minutes, day and date in windows) leaving in the centre of the dial the masks as the central attraction remaining as sculptures, as silent guardians of ancestral secrets.
Michel Butor's was the one who gave voice to the masks through magnificent short poems in prose dedicated to each mask. The writer's lines rise as mysterious messages that can only be read when the light strikes it from a certain angle. This effect was achieved by vacuum metallization, a sophisticated technological process in which the gold letters are sprayed onto a sapphire crystal.

Facial Mask
Island of Lombok, Sasak people
Hard wood, traces of white pigments
Height: 21.5 cm
Former collection of Mathias Komor
Inv. 3320-A

I dance the duration the wait
patience the resistance
to suffering and to evil
the slowness of the days and nights
stammerings recognition
resignation but vigilance
the hasty passage of the months
and the devouring of the months
Michel Butor

11 oct 2010

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew

Guinness beer
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter). Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic "tang", the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001, is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.
The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch cubes (with some fat)
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, whole
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2-3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
How to cook it
Heat a 6-quart stove-top casserole and add the oil and the bay leaves. Cook the bay leaves for a moment and then add the meat. Brown the meat on both sides on high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook for a few minutes until it is clear. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, thyme, rosemary and flour, and stir well until smooth.

Add the beef stock and stout; simmer, stirring, until the stew thickens a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and cover. Place the pot in a 275 F oven (yes, the book says 275 F) for about 2 hours, stirring a couple of times. Check for salt and pepper before serving.

© Text and image: Wikipedia / Recipe: www.world-recipes.info  

9 oct 2010

Un homme qui crie

Title: Un homme qui crie (A screaming man)
Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Writer: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Year: 2010
Running time: 92 minutes
Country: France and Chad
Plot summary:
Present-day Chad. Adam (Youssouf Djaoro), sixty something, a former swimming champion, is pool attendant at a smart N'Djamena hotel. When the hotel gets taken over by new Chinese owners, he is forced to give up his job to his son Abdel (Diouc Koma). Terribly resentful, he feels socially humiliated. The country is in the throes of a civil war. Rebel forces are attacking the government. The authorities demand that the population contribute to the "war effort", giving money or volunteers old enough to fight off the assailants. The District Chief constantly harasses Adam for his contribution. But Adam is penniless; he only has his son....
Adam's and Abdel's relation is the main focus of the film's story, and according to the director it relates to modern day Chad: "Between the father and the son is the transportation of memory, genes, and culture. It’s particularly important here because men conduct the war in Chad. The unrest in Chad has lasted 40 years and it’s the father who has transmitted the culture of war to his son, because otherwise there is no reason for the son to get involved." Mahamat-Saleh Haroun intentionally resisted from going into detail about the civil war in Chad and politics: "The film recounts the point of view of this character and he hasn't got a position with the rebels or the government; to his life the two forces are abstract and so it would not matter if he was for the rebels or the government as this would not stop the war."
The film's title is a quotation from the poetry collection Return to My Native Land by Aimé Césaire. The full sentence is "A screaming man is not a dancing bear". Haroun says that the main character Adam is "screaming against the silence of God, it's not a scream against adversity".

© Text and photo: Wikipedia

8 oct 2010

Indian or Native American?

Lecture: Indian or Native American?  Deconstructing Stereotypes about American Indians
Speakers: Raney Bench and James Eric Francis
Date: September 28th
Place: The Abbe Museum Community Gallery, 26 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor, Maine, US
Admission: Free
Join the Abbe Museum for a special program presented by Raney Bench and James Eric Francis, Sr. , Penobscot, that aims to deconstruct stereotypes about American Indians. This FREE event, intended for adults and teens, will take place from 6:30-8:00 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 28th in the Abbe Museum Community Gallery on 26 Mount Desert Street, Bar Harbor.
In Indian or Native American? Deconstructing Stereotypes about American Indians, Abbe Museum Curator of Education Raney Bench and Tribal Historian for the Penobscot Nation James Eric Francis, Sr. will present a skit and lead a discussion highlighting all those questions people are afraid to ask about Indians.  The introductory skit aims to address some common stereotypes while creating a comfortable and open atmosphere that encourages the questions and discussion that form the second half of the program.
Stereotyping is a learned form of classifying and labeling others based on inaccurate information or assumption rather than on factual knowledge. Stereotypes, both good and bad, are damaging because they ignore individual differences and assume that all people in a given category are alike.  Stereotyping can lead to prejudice, followed by discrimination in the forms of racism, sexism, or discrimination against foreigners, for example. Part of the program's conversation includes an explanation of the difference between the human tendency to categorize and the potentially harmful effects of generalization.  By directly addressing these stereotypes, this program aims to encourage a better understanding of American Indians.
The partnership of Raney Bench and James Eric Francis Sr. allows for a highly educational evening, as Bench's expertise enables her to address questions guests might have about sensitive issues regarding Native Americans in the United States; while James Eric Francis Sr. provides an important perspective and wealth of knowledge about Penobscot history and culture. 
About Abbe Museum:
The mission of the Abbe Museum is to inspire new learning about the Wabanaki Nations with every visit. The Abbe has a collection of over 50,000 archeological, historic, and contemporary objects including stone and bone tools, pottery, beadwork, carved root clubs, birch bark canoes, and supporting collections of photographs, maps, and archival documents. It holds the largest and best-documented collection of Maine Native American basketry in any museum. Its collections conservation program is recognized nationally as a model for museums

© Text and image: Abbe Museum

7 oct 2010

The Toraja of Sulawesi

Name: Toraja
Living Area: South Sulawesi, Indonesia
Population: 650.000
Language: Toraja
The Toraja are an ethnic group indigenous to a mountainous region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Their population is approximately 650,000, of which 450,000 still live in the regency of Tana Toraja ("Land of Toraja"). Most of the population is Christian, and others are Muslim or have local animist beliefs known as aluk ("the way"). The Indonesian government has recognized this animist belief as Aluk To Dolo ("Way of the Ancestors").
The word toraja comes from the Bugis language's to riaja, meaning "people of the uplands". The Dutch colonial government named the people Toraja in 1909.
Before the 20th century, Torajans lived in autonomous villages, where they practised animism and were relatively untouched by the outside world. In the early 1900s, Dutch missionaries first worked to convert Torajan highlanders to Christianity. When the Tana Toraja regency was further opened to the outside world in the 1970s, it became an icon of tourism in Indonesia: it was exploited by tourism developers and studied by anthropologists. By the 1990s, when tourism peaked, Toraja society had changed significantly, from an agrarian model — in which social life and customs were outgrowths of the Aluk To Dolo—to a largely Christian society.
Toraja's indigenous belief system is polytheistic animism, called aluk, or "the way" (sometimes translated as "the law"). In the Toraja myth, the ancestors of Torajan people came down from heaven using stairs, which were then used by the Torajans as a communication medium with Puang Matua, the Creator. The cosmos, according to aluk, is divided into the upper world (heaven), the world of man (earth), and the underworld. At first, heaven and earth were married, then there was a darkness, a separation, and finally the light. Animals live in the underworld, which is represented by rectangular space enclosed by pillars, the earth is for mankind, and the heaven world is located above, covered with a saddle-shaped roof. Other Toraja gods include Pong Banggai di Rante (god of Earth), Indo' Ongon-Ongon (a goddess who can cause earthquakes), Pong Lalondong (god of death), and Indo' Belo Tumbang (goddess of medicine); there are many more.
The earthly authority, whose words and actions should be cleaved to both in life (agriculture) and death (funerals), is called to minaa (an aluk priest). Aluk is not just a belief system; it is a combination of law, religion, and habit. Aluk governs social life, agricultural practices, and ancestral rituals. The details of aluk may vary from one village to another. One common law is the requirement that death and life rituals be separated. Torajans believe that performing death rituals might ruin their corpses if combined with life rituals. The two rituals are equally important. During the time of the Dutch missionaries, Christian Torajans were prohibited from attending or performing life rituals, but were allowed to perform death rituals. Consequently, Toraja's death rituals are still practiced today, while life rituals have diminished.

Well-known by: Their funeral rites.
Torajans are renowned for their elaborate funeral rites, burial sites carved into rocky cliffs, massive peaked-roof traditional houses known as tongkonan, and colourful wood carvings. Toraja funeral rites are important social events, usually attended by hundreds of people and lasting for several days.
In Toraja society, the funeral ritual is the most elaborate and expensive event. The richer and more powerful the individual, the more expensive is the funeral. In the aluk religion, only nobles have the right to have an extensive death feast. The death feast of a nobleman is usually attended by thousands and lasts for several days. A ceremonial site, called rante, is usually prepared in a large, grassy field where shelters for audiences, rice barns, and other ceremonial funeral structures are specially made by the deceased family. Flute music, funeral chants, songs and poems, and crying and wailing are traditional Toraja expressions of grief with the exceptions of funerals for young children, and poor, low-status adults.
The ceremony is often held weeks, months, or years after the death so that the deceased's family can raise the significant funds needed to cover funeral expenses. Torajans traditionally believe that death is not a sudden, abrupt event, but a gradual process toward Puya (the land of souls, or afterlife). During the waiting period, the body of the deceased is wrapped in several layers of cloth and kept under the tongkonan. The soul of the deceased is thought to linger around the village until the funeral ceremony is completed, after which it begins its journey to Puya.
Another component of the ritual is the slaughter of water buffalo. The more powerful the person who died, the more buffalos are slaughtered at the death feast. Buffalo carcasses, including their heads, are usually lined up on a field waiting for their owner, who is in the "sleeping stage". Torajans believe that the deceased will need the buffalo to make the journey and that they will be quicker to arrive at Puya if they have many buffalo. Slaughtering tens of water buffalo and hundred of pigs using a machete is the climax of the elaborate death feast, with dancing and music and young boys who catch spurting blood in long bamboo tubes. Some of the slaughtered animals are given by guests as "gifts", which are carefully noted because they will be considered debts of the deceased's family.
There are three methods of burial: the coffin may be laid in a cave or in a carved stone grave, or hung on a cliff. It contains any possessions that the deceased will need in the afterlife. The wealthy are often buried in a stone grave carved out of a rocky cliff. The grave is usually expensive and takes a few months to complete. In some areas, a stone cave may be found that is large enough to accommodate a whole family. A wood-carved effigy, called tau tau, is usually placed in the cave looking out over the land. The coffin of a baby or child may be hung from ropes on a cliff face or from a tree. This hanging grave usually lasts for years, until the ropes rot and the coffin falls to the ground.

Some words in Toraja language:   
hello: Apa kareba
thank you: Kurre sumange
how are you?: Kareba melo

© Text and images: Wikipedia

5 oct 2010

The Innocent Anthropologist

Title: The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut
Author: Nigel Barley
Year of publication: 1983
Paperback: 190 pages
Language: English
When British anthropologist Nigel Barley set up home among the Dowayo people in northern Cameroon, he knew how fieldwork should be conducted. Unfortunately, nobody had told the Dowayo. His compulsive, witty account of first fieldwork offers a wonderfully inspiring introduction to the real life of a cultural anthropologist doing research in a Third World area. Both touching and hilarious, Barley’s unconventional story—in which he survived boredom, hostility, disaster, and illness—addresses many critical issues in anthropology and in fieldwork.
About the author:
Nigel Barley (born 1947 in Kingston upon Thames, England) is an anthropologist famous for the books he has written on his experiences. He studied modern languages at Cambridge University and completed a doctorate in social anthropology at Oxford University. He held a number of academic positions before joining the British Museum as an assistant keeper in the Department of Ethnography, where he remained until 2003.
Barley's first book, The Innocent Anthropologist, was a witty and informative account of anthropological field work among the Dowayo people of Cameroon. Thereafter he published a number of works about Africa and Indonesia in such genres as travel, art, historical biography, and fiction.
Barley has been twice nominated for the Travelex Writer of the Year Award. In 2002, he won the Foreign Press Association prize for travel writing.
“Barley’s The Innocent Anthropologist is in turns maddening, provocative, subtle, and complex. I’m convinced it’s a good tool for uncovering students’ biases and preconceptions, both about anthropological fieldwork and about doctrinaire political correctness. Moreover, Barley’s droll wit makes students laugh—even at themselves when his humor escapes them.” —Sarah J. Hautzinger, Colorado College
“A good account of what is involved in doing fieldwork in anthropology that should be interesting reading for all students.” —James M. Kerri, Palomar College
“This book most accurately described how I felt when I was doing my own fieldwork ... I couldn’t put the book down. Personally, I found it both witty and compassionate.” —Diane C. Bates, Sam Houston State University
“A refreshingly honest insight into anthropological fieldwork. Barley reveals the realities of life and work in Africa in a most articulate, readable, humorous, and entertaining manner. If you do not like this book, it is because you do not like the message that Barley sets out to convey, i.e., life in one small African context, just as the anthropologist encountered it. Yet, this message could be most valuable to anyone engaged in the study of anthropology.” —Mark Huddleston, Nebraska Christian College
“This book not only presents anthropological data but also reads like a novel. It sparkles with humor and cultural insights.” —Clive Kileff, University of Tennessee
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