South Sulawesi province comprises the narrow southwestern peninsula of this orchid-shaped island, which is mainly mountainous. The seafaring Bugis dominant the southern tip, whereas the northern part of South Sulawesi is inhabited by the Torajas whose unique culture rivals that of the Balinese. Famed for their seafaring heritage and Pinisi schooners for centuries, the Bugis possess to the present day one of the last sailing fleets in the world.
The Bugis vessels have sailed as far as the Australian beach, leaving behind drawings of their ships on stone with words that have been integrated into the Aboriginal language of north Australia. Situated on the crossroads of well-traveled sea-lanes, its capital and chief trading port of Ujung Pandang, till today the gateway to eastern Indonesia. Spanish and Portuguese galleons, followed by British and Dutch traders sailed these seas in search of the spice trade, escorted by their men of war to protect them against the daring raids of the Bugis and Makassar who attacked the intruders. Ujung Pandang, was formerly Makassar, well known for its Makasar oil from which the English word "antimacassar" evolved for small covers to protect upholstery. The fortifications, which overlook the harbor, were originally built in 1545. Gowa's most famous king is considered a national hero, named Sultan Hasanuddin, the 16th king of Gowa who waged a long and fierce war against the colonial forces.
The Tomanurung stone with the inscriptions can still be seen in a plot neighboring the royal graves, near Sungguminasa, formerly the seat of the Gowa kings. The Bugis kingdom of Bone, Wajo and Soppeng and the Makassarase kingdom of Gowa emerged in 13th century. Though interrelated through marriage, Bone and Gowa have for centuries battled against each other. The southern beach is protected by small archipelagoes and has excellent facilities for water sports. These islands have been developed for holiday resorts. Further north, through rugged country is Tana Toraja, often referred to as the "Land of the Heavenly Kings".
An ethnic group who believes that their forefathers descended from heaven onto a mountain some twenty generations ago, the Torajas have a unique culture based on animistic beliefs. Known for their grand burial ceremonies on cliffs or hanging graves, they practice an ancestral cult even today where death and afterlife ceremonies are great feasts when buffaloes are sacrificed in the final death ceremony, after which the deceased's remains are placed in a coffin and interred in caves hollowed out in high cliffs. Lifelike statues, looking out from a balcony, guard the mouth of the cave. As death has such an "important meaning" when the souls are released, burials are elaborate and follow feasting days. Rock graves are also a form of burial. A strict hierarchy is followed in the villages.
|Information and pictures courtesy of Indonesia Tourism.