“In Toraja a person isn’t dead until the day of their funeral, until then they are only sick.”
The Land of the Hanging Graves transports a New York audience 9,693 miles away to Tana Toraja to witness its extraordinary funerary ritual, the Rambu Solo’. This rare and unique funeral tradition from the highland region of Indonesia’s Southern Sulawesi is the most complex death ceremony in the world. The ritual lasts three to seven days and requires months or years of preparation. Hanging Graves is a participatory documentary about the Torajan death ceremony in the form of an immersive walk-through where the participant experiences their own death. The casket is covered and the ceremony and celebration is heard as the community carries them from their home to their final resting place.
The Land of the Hanging Graves gives participants the chance to experience this complex ceremonialism through the eyes of the deceased. The experience is accompanied by a collection of images that commemorate the real event in order to give participants the cultural cachet of folk memory. The power of sound facilitates an immersiveness that makes this peculiar tradition feel familiar rather than strange. Hanging Graves is a challenge to closely observe our own view of death, stealing away our souls from the rigidity of our modern conceptions and into an ancient state of sacred reverie.
The Process

Digital illustration of Toraja's carving, Pa'barre Allo, which means resemble the sun with its rays which symbolizes energy of life and has a sublime purpose like a sun gives life to the world. It symbolizes the grandeur a nobility of the Torajanese.

The casket

Casket: miniature

Experiential diagram v.02

Final experiential diagram

The Icon

Digital illustration of Toraja's head carving, Pa'Erong, which is the Toraja term for the carved wooden caskets that traditionally house the bones of the deceased. It symbolizes the life guidance, rules of life, worship and equipment for the ceremonies event. Sculpting this motif on a sarcophagus is said to help whisk the soul of the deceased on to the next world, from where it is hoped, the soul will continue to bless the descendants remaining in this world.

The Talk
NYU ITP Thesis 2016 Presentation, May 11 2016.
The Land of the Hanging Graves received a research grant from Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU CV Starr.

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