Interview with Dirk Sandarupa

Interview with Dirk Sandarupa

Dirk Sandarupa is a PhD in Anthropological Linguistics, focussing on ritual life in Toraja.

Dirk Sandarupa is a graduate doctoral student in anthropo linguistics. He has carried out his research on Toraja culture and language during his studies such as speech levels in the Toraja language and the pesung ritual. In addition to researching Toraja culture, he is also active in writing national and international journals. His latest journal is entitled Toraja, the city of ritual, and has collaborated with an international journal with an outside lecturer, Professor Kathleen Adams published by Asian Journal Tourism. The collaborative journal also was chosen to be part of the Tourism Microentrepreneurship book. During his life he was also active in writing poetry in English. His poems have been published by Spill Words Press New York, Advaitam Speak journal and The Local train magazine. Dirk Sandarupa is currently active as an entrepreneur and lecturer In Sulawesi. In the future, he hopes to continue to work and collaborate with people from various national backgrounds. His motto is that science will never fade as long as we continue to produce works according to our abilities.

We first encountered Dirk whilst we were preparing to go to Toraja in 2019, we came across the work of his father Stanislaus Sandarupa, a well known anthropologist and expert on Toraja, his home region. Sadly Stanislaus passed away in 2016, but Dirk has followed in his father’s footsteps and has taken up the linguistic and anthropological study of Toraja. We were then lucky enough to meet Dirk in Makassar at the end of our trip, and we all got along very well. Being a young man, we found that Dirk understood many of our preoccupations and questions, and was very generous and forthcoming with information and assistance. 

For the Sipakatuo project, it has been important for us to return to some of our broader questions about Torajan social systems and structures; we hoped to get a fuller idea of how DSTV and their practice is situated within them. Dirk, having just completed his PhD in Linguistic Anthropology, was perfectly placed to help us with some of our questions.

Dirk was sure to underscore the diversity in Torajan cultural practice, and the tendency external journalists, filmmakers etc. have to generalise about Torajan ritual and ceremony. Dirk reminded us that it’s crucial to be specific about context when referring to or representing ritual, ceremony or language, as it’s not only specific to each area in Toraja, but also is constantly evolving, like any culture around the world. He was also sure to point out the stratification of Torajan society, and the decisive role it has in social dynamics, both public and private. 

Thanks a lot Dirk for sharing your knowledge, we can’t wait to meet again as soon as we can!

Sam: Hi Dirk, thanks for joining us. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself and a bit about your family history and your relationship with Toraja?

Dirk: My name is Dirk Sandarupa. My father and my mother come from Toraja, I'm currently pursuing a PhD program at Universitas Hasanuddin. Right now, my interests are in Anthropology and Linguistics, and my research is about ritual practice in Toraja. My father was known as the Key of Culture to Toraja back in 2015. My father was a researcher, lecturer, and philosopher. Through his whole life he focused on Toraja - both in North Toraja and South Toraja, and he also went to Mamasa which is located in West Toraja.

Sam: Can you tell us about what your studies are and what your interests are? The main ideas, themes, and content of your studies?

Dirk: I've been researching Toraja since my bachelor’s degree. In my PhD program, I wanted to take it to the next level, which is Anthropological Linguistics. My current research is different from my previous research, it's about rice rituals. I have been comparing two regions; Tambunan in North Toraja and Balik in South Toraja.

When we talk about Torajan culture, we talk about tribes, beliefs, philosophies, and social stratification.

Sam: What's the significance of the rice ritual? How does it take place and what are the differences between Balik and Tambunan?

Dirk: My most recent research takes place in Tambunan in North Toraja and Balik in South Toraja. Usually, in Toraja, each place has its own name for the Aluk. For instance, in Tambunan, we call it Aluk Tambunan, whereas in Balik it’s called Aluk Balik. Aluk itself means belief. What I find interesting about Torajan culture is this; each area has its own set of beliefs about the rice ritual. This is what makes Toraja so hard to unify. In 2015, My father attempted to get Toraja into UNESCO’s World Heritage list. However, it was not possible because of the differences between each area and each town. North Toraja and South Toraja are very different. If we were to focus on one town, that area has its own set of beliefs; this is what my findings tell me. When we talk about rituals in Tambunan, for example. They have a very different way of conducting rituals compared to those in Balik. 

In its essence, the rice ritual is all about sacrifice. Aside from that, the ritual also focuses on the prayers and offerings for the gods and ancestors. As is the case with Ma’nene, which we often read about in newspapers and articles online. Each area is different, and there’s more than one meaning to a ritual. This is what complicates things; we can’t unify them as one religion with one philosophy. Not to mention, the rice ritual is not only about the gods. It’s also about belief and philosophy.

Afifah: My next question focuses more on Aluk To Dolo or ‘the way of the ancestors’, Toraja’s Indigenous faith. We have a very limited understanding of the two main teachings; Aluk Sanda Saratu' and Aluk Sanda Pitunna. Can you please elaborate on these teachings, Aluk To Dolo and how it has evolved, and also how the concept of death is ingrained so heavily in this belief?

Dirk: Aluk refers to belief or religion. Essentially, all Aluks in Toraja are the same. This religion prays to the one called Puang Matua - the highest one above. Secondly, there are the gods, and lastly, there are the ancestors. Be it in South or West Toraja, the Aluk is the same. What differentiates them is the stories about their ancestors. Aluk Tambunan has their ancestors, while Balik has their own ancestors, too. Despite this, Aluk has the same meaning and they all believe in Puang Matua the way Christians believe in the figure of The Father. And then there are the gods. Based on the philosophy, what I understood to be the most commonly accepted one in Toraja is Tallu Lolona, which is made up of three values.

I think when you talk about Aluk's history and philosophy, those are two different concepts.

Sam: Can you maybe explain each concept separately?

Dirk: Yes. This is my presentation on “Masyarakat Sosial Antropologi Budaya Pada Suku Toraja (Cultural Anthropology Study on the Social Life of Torajan People)”. I will be speaking about the late Stanislaus Sandarupa, the Key of Culture to Toraja. He always said, “Don't die before you go to Toraja” to invite tourists, wherever they are from, to come and experience Toraja. 

What is Toraja? Toraja is a mountainous area surrounded by bamboo and pine trees, coffee fields, and various other tropical plants. Toraja itself is a place, a heritage bequeathed by the ancestors known for its diversity of language and unique culture. These two things are often considered the biggest attractions for tourists and researchers visiting Toraja, Toraja is split into three main areas; North Toraja, South Toraja, and West Toraja.

To understand the people, religion, and philosophy of Toraja, we must first take a close look at them. The Torajan society has a hierarchical system that divides them into four groups; The upper class (tana' bulaan), middle class (tana’ bassi), lower class (tana' karurung), and the slaves (tana' kua-kua). 

However, these days these distinctions are fading, leaving only the higher three groups; the upper class, middle class, and lower class, but this seems to be fading as well. The people themselves don’t seem to understand this stratification system very well. This can be seen from how Rambu Solo is supposed to be something done exclusively for the upper class, not to be copied by others. However, the middle-class people today would also do this ritual; the meaning behind this system itself is fading.

Secondly, the Torajan people are commonly believers of one of the four faiths; Alukta/Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, and even Islam. However, they also have been believers of Aluk to Dolo. The Torajan people also have a very deep-rooted philosophy that they still hold onto to this day, which we might often hear about if we were to visit Toraja; Tallu Lolona or the Three Buds of Life.

Rice Ritual in Balik

Here is one example of the rice ritual which I researched two years ago in Balik. We know that the Muslims have 'Burasa', but Toraja also has other kinds of rice that people don't know about, that are also part of their culture. 

Ma'Tada ritual

This is the Ma' Tada ritual. Still within the group of rice rituals. In this ritual, they want to offer rice to the gods and ancestors. 

To'Mina performing the Menamu ritual

This is the To’ Mina, which in Torajan means ‘religious leader’.

You can see a pig there. This ritual is called the Menamu ritual, which is focused on the Gods. They sacrifice a pig and offering the Gods pork.

Regarding the Torajan philosophy itself, in the past governmental system, the Torajan people believed in the philosophy of Tallu Lolona. Tallu Lolona itself is a belief passed down by the Torajan ancestors to help people navigate life. Even today, The Torajan people still hold onto this philosophy as their strongest guiding value. 

Whenever we hear prayers in rituals like Rambu Solo or Rambu Tuka, they would always mention Tallu Lolona. This is the belief with the strongest influence in their lives--aside from their own religions. Tallu Lolona itself refers to the three buds of life; Lolo Tau (human’s lives), Lolo Paluan (animals’ lives), and Lolo Tananan (the plants’ lives).

Let’s start with Lolo Tau. This bud refers to human lives. Lolo means the belly button; the source or the center of life. Torajan people believe that when a child is born, the parents must ensure that the child would grow up well into someone who is thoughtful and smart, who can differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, this is highly emphasized in the Torajan culture. Although Lolo Tau seems to have faded, it is still very much prevalent in the more closed-off areas. In Torajan Culture, a newborn baby must go through the ceremony of a hair-cutting ritual. The next steps are Alukna Ma Rampanan Kapa, the Torajan marriage ceremony, and Alukna To Ma Karandangkalua, ritual prayer for the health of children when they must start earning their own meals. Once the child has gone through all three steps, they are declared to have reached the highest phase of human life.

Next, there’s Lolo Patuoan. Just like humans, animals are also important in Toraja; buffaloes, pigs, chickens, and dogs. However, most of the rituals are done using buffaloes and pigs. Torajan people believe that animals must be protected and cared for before they do a ritual for them. This is why when we go to Toraja, we would see all these animals being really well cared for--although some still do eat dogs.

And then, there’s Lolo Tanaman. Like the two I previously mentioned, plants are also very important to the Torajan people. As many people are aware, the most famous plants in Toraja are passionfruit, coffee, and chocolate plants. In this case, these plants--be it rice, coffee, or chocolate--the people don’t just plant them. They also do a ritual for them because they believe that the gods have a hand in helping them take care of the plants so they would grow well.

When we talk about the language, Toraja has different languages for those in the upper class, middle class, and lower class. To Torajan people, language is an identifier of cultural status--which is why when we visit Toraja, we need to be careful of the language we use. For example, in choosing whether to use Kamu, Ko, Ki, [three ways of saying “you” in Toraja, depending on the class of the person one is speaking with] or other possible variations.

When we talk about the Torajan culture, we talk about tribes, beliefs, philosophies, and social stratifications. What I have yet to explain are the Tongkonan and the Alang, which can’t be separated from one another.

Torajan Tongkonan

Tongkonan is a building that has a distinctly Torajan function and philosophy; a space for their cultural rituals and ceremonies as well as a space to hold discussions. Everyone in Toraja must have a Tongkonan. In the olden days, a Tongkonan was a simple residence shaped like a boat and built based on the social status of its owner. It’s not only a house; it’s also a marker of the owner’s social stratification. A Tongkonan owned by those of the upper class will have buffalo heads or chicken carved on it. These carvings differentiate the Tongkonans of Toraja. A buffalo head on a Tongkonan tells you that the homeowner has sacrificed a lot of buffaloes, signifying that they come from the upper class.

And then there’s also Alang or Lembah Lembah. Alang is a structure built next to someone’s house to store rice, host guests, or hold rituals. To this day, Torajan people still use Alang for these three purposes.

Dirk sitting under a traditional Alang

What we see above is a traditional Alang, while below, we can see a more modern one.

Modern Alang

Around 6% of Torajan people practice the Alukta religion. There are a majority of Protestants and Catholics, and then there are also Muslims, which have started appearing recently.

The Torajan people in the olden days understood religion and belief as inseparable. However, in these modern times, they see religion and belief as different things. This is what differentiates the people of Aluk To Dolo and the people today. Traditional Torajan culture believes we should never separate religion, or Alukta, with belief when conducting a ritual. What makes things so different today is that people conduct rituals as a cultural tradition, not as a religious practice.

Makarenren rice ritual

Here is one of the rice rituals called Makarenren where they serve various rice and chicken dishes.

Pasar Bolu buffalo market

Here is Pasar Bolu, where most of the buffaloes being sold in Toraja are.

I would like to elaborate a bit more on the language. Aside from the people, religion, and philosophy, language is also considered very important in Toraja. To the Torajan people, language tells of an unchangeable identity that will be carried over from one generation to the next. Dialect shows a person’s social stratification. Things such as the use of “kamu” [the word “you” when referring to somebody from the upper class] can tell you about a person’s social class.

Another example is the use of the word ‘Puang’ at Tongkonan Layuk (an upper class Tongkonan) which is used to refer to those of the highest social class. To this day, they still use the word ‘Puang’. On the other hand, we have the prefix ‘ta-’ used to humble oneself before a ‘Puang’, commonly used by the middle class.

And then there’s Balimbing Kalua (a middle class Tongkonan). If you were to visit Toraja, we must differentiate ‘Puang’ and ‘Ambe’. Among those of the middle class, the words ‘ambe (masculine)’ and ‘indo (feminine)’ are used to refer to someone older, just like in the lower social class.

Each area in Toraja has its own stories and culture passed down by their respective ancestors. As I mentioned, this is what made Toraja’s rituals so diverse and unique. One of the instances you can see this uniqueness is through the death rituals. Aside from the death rituals, Toraja also has life rituals. Torajan culture believes that there’s a life after death (as reflected in the rituals Pesung, Rambu Solo, and Ma’nene), they believe that those who passed must be respected and given a ritual for. Even after someone passes, the people will still include them through rituals like Ma’nene or Pesung.

According to the Torajan people’s belief, above the sky there is a heaven and under a sky there is life. This is why the concepts of life and death are so closely related and still prevail today. They also believe that the more animals a person sacrifices the more likely they are to go to heaven. In this (slide), you’ll find the ritual Rambu Solo. Here, you can see the buffaloes being sacrificed.

When we’re talking about Toraja as a tourism destination, of course we have to talk about its nature; real and untouched.

Afifah:  You explained the hierarchy present in Torajan society. We have interviewed Victor from DSTV Sangalla’, he mentioned prioritizing the grander ceremonies of higher class people. Do you have any thoughts about the social stratification system and how much class privilege or class-related customs are still practiced today? Are there rituals that have been erased or altered due to modern conventions? How would the situation differ, between how it was in the olden days versus today?

Dirk: In this dissertation, I mention that the concept of ritual needs clarifying. Some say that rituals are religion or rituals are spells, some even see rituals as a political game. However, the conclusion I reached was that a ritual is an aspect of culture. Even when we compare the rituals in Toraja with religions such as Catholicism, Islam, and Protestantism and look at the history, these rituals change, they are not consistent. Yes, they do believe in the existence of Puang Matua, the gods, and the ancestors, but I only see it as an ever-changing ideology. The Rambu Solo rituals of the 2000s, for example, are very different from the Rambu Solo rituals in the 1980s. This is why I understand rituals as a man-made ideology.

Catholics have their holy book, just like the Al-Quran for Muslims. Whereas these rituals don’t have notes or documents that serve as a legitimate guide. What I learned from my research trip on the rice ritual, is that in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s the rituals always change. As anthropologists say, culture changes with time. The differences between what is and what was are very apparent.

If we were to see Rambu Solo today, it appears as if they’re just doing it as a competition; a performance. Because when we go to Toraja, we can see even those from the middle or lower social class sacrificing over twenty-four buffaloes; this should not be the case.

To the Torajan people, language tells of an unchangeable identity that will be carried over from one generation to the next. Dialect shows a person’s social stratification.

Afifah: With modernisation, do you think that the concept of death will change? Or would it remain the same, just like language?

Dirk: Personally, I believe that in this modern age, a Torajan person who lives in cities such as Jakarta or Makassar would still conduct the Rambu Solo. However, we wouldn’t be doing it according to the old belief that says we have to sacrifice twenty-four buffaloes. Many people my age--in their 30s--when our parents pass away--be it in Jakarta or Borneo--prefer not to follow the tradition. Maybe in ten years, the old belief of making animal sacrifices would gradually go away. This is what I personally think.

Sam: Could you comment on the history of documentation, the study, or the preservation of Torajan culture? Such as anthropological or ethnological studies about Toraja, films that have been made, books that have been written about Toraja, who wrote what book - and why they wrote them. 

Dirk: If we were to see Toraja from an anthropological perspective, we see culture such as Toraja’s as something that changes with time. What many people don’t understand from films about Toraja, is that they only see one depiction, they only see one version of ritual Ma'Nene from a film while there is the same ritual in another area which might have a different meaning.What many people don’t understand about films about Toraja, is that when they see a Ma’Nene ritual such as this one, the same ritual in another area might have a different meaning. For example, in Tambunan and Balik, Ma’Nene ritual is merely about praying and giving offerings such as pork and rice. However, in these films, the way they depict Ma’Nene makes people think that everywhere in Toraja bodies must be exhumed, cleaned, and have their clothes changed for this ritual. 

Torajan culture is very diverse and complex. It would be great if there are filmmakers who would show that Toraja has more than one way of living and that it varies depending on the area. These differences, which make Toraja so diverse, can only be seen if one were to follow the rituals one by one. Whether you’re making a film or conducting research, you shouldn’t see only one Rambu Solo and be done with it. Rambu Solo, for example, is not only about social stratification; it’s also about the different ways of living.

Do you know the ritual Rampanan Kapa'? It's a marriage ceremony. What's interesting is that in Tondon (region in Toraja), there are different ways of doing Rampanan Kapa' than in my region. Some time ago, my cousin who lives in Tondon held a wedding. Over there, the groom must sacrifice one hundred pigs so they can marry the bride. In some areas, sacrificing just one pig or buffalo would be enough to legitimize the wedding. However in some others, like Tondon, there are those who still hold onto the traditional beliefs of having to sacrifice a lot of animals. What's interesting about Toraja is that even though they believe in Puang Matua or God, they still put most of their faith in their ancestors (nenek moyang). So what the ancestors have said before, some people will still apply it to everyday life, even though some others don't want to follow it anymore.

Sam: That's an interesting element to the idea of documentation. For example, knowledge given by the ancestors caught on film or video is very different to it being written down or it being passed down orally. The content and the form of knowledge changes because of the way in which it is transmitted.

Dirk: When you read articles about Toraja, or see Toraja on TV you only see just one aspect. There is diverse culture across all the regions in Toraja.

Sam: You said that there are differences in practice. But are there differences in philosophy as well?

Dirk: Yeah that's interesting. In Toraja they only have one Aluk, one philosophy. The confusing and interesting thing about Toraja is that what they practice in today's life is based on ancestors' teachings and practices. So, in the case of residents of Tondon, I asked them “why do you have to sacrifice a hundred buffaloes in order to get married?” They would say that that was their ancestors' belief, practice, and teachings. So I asked, “does that mean you only believe in one Puang Matua or one God?” What they practice today is based on the ancestors' point of view.

Sam: And how do they learn these ancestral points of view?

Dirk: That's the confusing part about rituals in Toraja. They don't have written documentation. So that is our job as anthropologists, for me and my late father. The important thing about Toraja is you have to read the text in order to know whether it's based on fact or gods only. That is why we, anthropologists, focus more on written texts. We want to see who they are praying to and believing in. If you really want to know about Toraja you also need to read the written text.

Traditional Torajan culture believes we should never separate religion, or Alukta, with belief when conducting a ritual. What makes things so different today is that people conduct rituals as a cultural tradition, not as a religious practice.

Sam: You spoke to somebody getting married and they said that they celebrate their marriage in the same way as their ancestors. Have they read that in a book? Or have they been told orally? Or have they seen it in a video?

Dirk: I have discussed and elaborated on that in my dissertation. I ask the question “Are rituals practiced nowadays in Toraja based on oral text or written text?” I think what they do today is based on oral transmission - conversation to conversation. It would be interesting if someone could make a written text about the Rambu Solo ritual, it's very complicated when we talk about culture in Toraja because they have different perceptions. I would ask about any book that says these things need to be done, but they said it’s based on teachings and beliefs. I think we should make a written text about the culture of Toraja, to not confuse things.

My father focused a lot on text, he wanted to know how many Gods there are, how many Puang Matua are there. But he's stated that there's only Puang Matua and one God but the difference is the ancestors in each region.

Afifah: How do you think an anthropologist decides on the “definitive culture” to be included in anthropological text? Considering many of them are passed down verbally and there’s a lot of variation and interpretation depending on the area of Toraja.

Dirk: Well the only way is by specifying the area in which we research this culture. By clarifying the context under which this culture exists. When we read an article or a dissertation about Toraja, we wonder why Toraja is depicted this or that way. This is why I believe it is very important to specify which area you’re dealing with, be it in making films or writing articles. In Toraja, this is a very sensitive topic. When someone says “my (Torajan) culture says this...” but another Torajan person thinks differently. It’s important to be specific about which area you’re talking about and not generalise them.

Afifah: A main topic we’d like to explore in the film is the digitalisation of culture. If we were to compare the embalming of bodies like in Rambu Solo, with how we preserve a ritual through video documentation, could there be a spiritual or philosophical connection between the two? Between documenting the ritual and then doing the ritual itself? 

Dirk: It looks to me that the documentation we have today doesn’t really specify what Torajan culture is. I did my research about rice rituals in two regions; Tambunan and Balik. When I asked them what the rice ritual means to them, the answers are very different between Tambunan and Balik. Even the way of praying is very different. For example, Balik is much more modern compared to Tambunan, which is rather traditional. When I asked the To’mina [religious leader] about the differences in Aluk between Tambunan and Balik, they had contradicting perspectives on the rice ritual. So, when I put my findings in my dissertation I had to specify whether I was talking about Tambunan or Balik, I couldn’t word it as ‘Rice Ritual in Toraja’ because they have different ways, beliefs, and teachings. They only have one thing in common that is Puang Matua and Gods, but the rest is mostly different. I once asked which one is right and which one is wrong, but they would get offended. When I realized this, I stopped making the comparison and did my research based on two regions and specifically explained each of them.

Sam: DSTV has days and days worth of footage and we're looking at the value it could have as an archive. With archives, we’ve found that what's most important are the issues of communication, circulation, and access. The idea of there not being enough information associated with this particular image to be able to explain the content of that material, that's an important factor in its preservation. The access to the material at the moment is very easy because a lot of it is on YouTube but the communication aspect of it perhaps is not very well done because it doesn't have enough information about the content.

Dirk: I think that's why when people see documentaries or clips on YouTube, they say things like, "Oh when you want to get married to a Torajan you have to sacrifice many buffaloes.." but it's not always like that. I mean, some have strayed away from that ritual.

Sam: You can't generalise, it’s important to be specific.

Dirk: When people write about the ritual Ma'Nene, they just base their writing on one place. While in my region in Tambunan, the ritual is different.

Sam: We went to three different Ma'Nene rituals and they were all completely different to one another.

Dirk: The word Ma'nene means the same thing, that is 'celebrating the ancestors'. It has one meaning but many different practices. 

Torajan culture is very diverse and complex. It would be great if there are filmmakers who would show that Toraja has more than one way of living and that it varies depending on the area.

Afifah: I’m aware that you are well-informed and have experience in tourism. You, your father, and your family want to put Toraja on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I want to ask about the locals’ and local leaders' opinions of tourism. I have heard there was tension between the government and local leaders in Toraja about 'tourism zoning'. How is the perception of tourism in Toraja at the moment? Does the presence of tourists during rituals or funerals affect the sacrality of the ceremony?

Dirk: Four years ago there was a seminar about the philosophy of Toraja. They invited entrepreneurs, regents, leaders in Toraja, To’mina, and a lecturer from Makassar, to discuss building Toraja as a tourism destination. When the To’mina [Torajan spiritual leader], Tato Dena’ [high profile To’mina] was asked how he sees Toraja in five or ten years, Tato Dena' said the way they present Toraja nowadays is not based on real culture anymore. The meaning of culture has faded, it’s approaching extinction, and the rituals are not based on real culture anymore. If you really want to see the real culture you would have to involve the To’mina. First and foremost, Torajan cultural rituals cannot be conducted without a spiritual leader.

I think from a tourism perspective, Toraja has new places such as Buntu Burake - the new kinds of tourist destinations. The funny thing is that back in 2017 when tourists asked for the best spots, we'd suggest they go to Burake and other tourist venues. But they didn’t want to go there, they preferred to go to traditional places and witness the Rambu Solo, the rituals. That is culture for them. 

There are so many things that the government wants to change about the culture in Toraja. But according to Tato Dena', culture shouldn’t be renewed and remade artificially. For example, the Pagellu dance was supposed to be performed during funerals. The meaning of this dance has often been changed. The same goes with Palambuk (rice pounding), it should be done after the rice is harvested, but these days Malambuk (rice pounding ritual) is conducted when outsiders have come to visit. The To’mina’s want the rituals to be done only when and where they are needed, as had been decided by those who came before them. So there’s a lot of contradictions here, between the ideas of those who favor modernization and those of the To’mina.

Sam: Is it something about the performance of culture compared with the substance of culture?

Dirk: In 2016, the government decided to modernize the meaning of culture Toraja with new tourist destinations and monuments, creating spaces equivalent to Kota Tua in Jakarta. But the To’mina doesn't agree with them, saying that we should practice our culture based on our traditional beliefs and we don't want to modernize it. So there are contradicting opinions about Toraja’s cultural future.

I think the reason why Toraja is not on the UNESCO's World Heritage list is not only because of the difference between the North Toraja and South Toraja regions but these varying and contradicting opinions. To’minas were asked to do the Rambu Solo rituals for officials from outside the area, but they declined, refusing to practice rituals out of proper context and only as a tourist attraction. If you go to Toraja and stay for a long time, you'll get to know their opinions on the modernization of Toraja. If you go to Balik now the place has become quite modernized, while the opposite is true in Tambunan, which is still very traditional. They declined the offer to modernize by the government and resent modernisation. 

Afifah: Thanks so much for sharing your research and expertise with us Dirk.

Sam: Yes, we’re really grateful, and we look forward to seeing you in person, hopefully soon!