Thursday, December 09, 2004

"A House Warming Party"

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi "Proud Owner of a New House"
Matriarch of the Family Enjoying Tobacco and Betel Nut

“Well hello darling, so good of you to come.”

“Wonderful to see you. Such a lovely new house. And look at you! I love what you’ve done to your hair”.

“Oh you’re too kind. Thanks ever so much for the pig – she is so big and fat ...”

“That little thing ... it was the least I could do”.

“Well enough chit chat ... where are my manners. .... You must be exhausted from your trip. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable under the house and I’ll see about some refreshments”.

“Why thank you.”

“Well I do believe your pig is up” a horrific squeal reverberates around the compound. “Oh my but isn’t she a squealer. I’ll have your half brought around proper ... and just between you and me I’ll make sure they throw in the head because you are such a sweet thing!”

“You are such a dear.”

“OK then, ta, ta, enjoy!”

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi "House Warming" Party

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi "House Warming" Party

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi No More "Going to the Market" for this Gal

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi Pork Rinds

When a new house is finished in Toraja the extended family all comes around for a proper house warming party. It does not have the same level of importance as a funeral so only one buffalo is typically involved. And from the looks of the severed parts we saw displayed in the central courtyard, it was a young one. House warming parties are a pig affair which makes them quite lively as pigs are a bit more ornery than the pampered, spoiled and thus rather content buffalo. Family members (of which there might be 100’s) bring pigs as gifts to the family hosting the soire`. The pig’s throats are stuck with a long knife and a bamboo flask is administered in such a way as to catch all the blood making sure the area remains relatively clean. It is then gutted and dragged off to one of the many hair removal fires where its coarse bristles are burnt off so the pork rinds aren’t all hairy. The charred carcass is returned to the killing field where guys with big really sharp knives make quick work of the pig creating spare ribs, ham hocks, pork heads and the like. The meat is then distributed among the participating guests. All this is done in the central courtyard of the family complex and definitely makes for quite a festive atmosphere.

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi Fresh Pig (I'll keep this one small)

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi Pig Head and Owner ... not me, the lucky other fellow.

Certain big fat pigs require a bit more ceremony. They are ornately decorated and carried in on one of those things they used to cart Roman Caesars around on and put on display in the central courtyard. This is as far as ceremony goes for pigs. After a while they are dumped off their Roman Caesar thing, stuck with the knife, gutted, burned, butchered and distribute. This goes on for quite some time.

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi Fancy Pig

The tax collector sits in an honored seat on a platform extending from the new house and publicly declares the tax for each pig killed. We heard it was about 1.3 million rupiah (about 150$ US) a pig, not cheap. Again all of this plays an important role in Torajan economics.

There were no tall, white, sweaty people around other than our crew and we were made to feel very welcome. I was more often than not met with a curious look, a smile and simple chit chat. We probably just added a bit more to the event – “Visitors from wherever – right on! – Kill another pig!”

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi House Party with Matriarch Family and Friends

After getting an eye, ear and camera full we hunkered down with one of the matriarchs, had a chew of betel nut, chatted, gave our thanks for the festivities and said our goodbyes.

So if you are ever invited to a Torajan house warming party forget about tea and scones – think back yard barbecue on steroids .... Wonder what a Torajan baby shower is like?


Anonymous said...

hey ian --

some 'sick' images there . . . wow, yeah -- wow! i'm not sure that i'll be eating bacon anytime soon.

all my best to you and alicia --

john hyland

IndoIan said...

Hi John,

Pleasant surprise to see your note this sultry morning! Went to Brandon's last night for some holiday cheer. Wish you guys were there.

Sulawesi was a trip. The pig situation was tough ... But good times overall.

We'll make a run to Bintang 69 for you guys before we leave for the holidays.

Best wishes to you and Sarah. Merry Christmas!


Irene said...

Hey Ian, got here from Brandon's (thejavajive) page.

Seeing those pics made me glad I dont eat pork.

Take care, happy holidays!

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