The Toraja people of Indonesia’s mountainous South Sulawesi region provide long-term care for their family members.
They believe that the transition from life to death is part of a bigger voyage into the spirit world.
It can take many years for some family members to save for luxurious funeral services, and bodies can stay inside residences or in modest grave sites for months until that moment.
During this time, people continue to converse with the skeletal remains and sometimes even ‘feed’ them.
The Toraja are concerned that if their ancestors’ spirits are unhappy, even after death, it will result in a poor rice harvest the following year.
As a result, villagers perform the centuries-old Ma’nene ceremony every 3 years.
It translates as “Care of the Ancestors” and is held at the end of August.
The deceased person in the area are preserved in formalin, which helps prevent further decomposition.
During the festival, remains are unearthed and tenderly clothed in garments.
People in the village can then tend to their caskets and make repairs any broken elements of the frameworks.
While the gaze of rigid, skeletal remains being dressed up may appear unusual to an external observer, the formal ceremony allows the Toraja to honor their deceased loved ones.
Kids in the region are taught at an early age to accept death as part of a larger spiritual journey.
Villagers will even pose for family pictures with the dead bodies they have dressed for Ma’nene.
It is not unusual for the preserved corpses to be welcomed to lunch or to share a cig with their surviving relatives.
Despite the world’s increasing modernization, the exceptional ritual has survived for centuries.