In 2022 Darwin will celebrate 100 years of secondary education. Following are some of the newspaper articles and letters of the time from the Northern Territory Times and Gazette, and the Northern Standard.
Collected by Derek Pugh.
17 June 1915 The Northern Territory Times and Gazette(NTTG)
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, N.T., SHORTHAND CLASS.
Spelling, Composition and Arithmetic.
Intending students should apply to the Head Teacher, Darwin School.
V. L. Lampe, H. T., Darwin.
12 April 1917 NTTG
THE Education Department is arranging a series of Evening Continuation Classes according to the following timetable:
Monday: Shorthand and Book-keeping.
Tuesday: Arithmetic, Spelling.
Thursday: Shorthand, Book-keeping
Friday: Algebra, English' Grammar and Composition.
Classes will commence on Monday, March 26th, at 8 p.m.
Fee 15s, per subject per quarter.
Intending students should apply to the school for enrolment.
The Head Teacher of the Darwin Public school
V. L. Lampe
9 July 1921
High school Class.
A Preparatory Class will be started at the Darwin Public School, early in July, to prepare pupils for admission to a High school Class in 1922.
Hours. - Mornings 9.20 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. Afternoons 1.45, p.m. to 3.45. p.m.
For further particularly apply Head Teacher, Darwin School.
V, L. LAMPE (Head Teacher, Darwin Public school).
6 August 1921
“Wallaby": The last published report of the headmaster bf the Darwin (N.T.) public school showed a roll of 129 scholars - 46 English speaking Europeans; 17 Malay half castes, 39 Chinese and 27 Greeks; More and more the whites are leaving Darwin to the Chows and Greeks, though there is still, a fair smattering of rabid extremists who find conditions so congenial that nothing can frighten them away from the paradise of loaferdom, But it’s a fine sight at the school to see a class of “whites” in one corner and a class of half-castes and blacks in another corner. The brotherhood of man is not a part of the young Darwinian's education; and, mostly, Darwin talks a lot about it outside, would pull the roof off if an attempt was made to put it in practice - Bulletin
26 Nov 1921
The Qualifying Certificate Examination for admission to the High school in 1922 will be held at the Public school, Darwin, on December 8th and 9th, 1921! Application for permission to sit for Examination must reach the Head Teacher of the Darwin school on or before December 5th, 1921.
Head Teacher, Darwin.
19 December 1922 DARWIN The Northern Standard, Page 3
PUBLIC SCHOOL ANNUAL PRESENTATION OF PRIZES.
At the Darwin Public school on Friday morning last the Annual Presentation of Prizes won by the scholars for the past year took place.
His Worship the Mayor presided and called on Mr. Lampe (head teacher) to deliver the hist speech Mr. Lampe, on behalf of the. assistant teachers and pupils said he wished to thank those present for their attendance, particularly. Mr. C. H. Story (Government Secretary),
It was the first time for a number of years that the Northern Territory had had a Government Secretary who took such high interest in the welfare of the school. He also wished to thank that gentleman for the prizes he had donated. When the High School had been inaugurated they had only twenty-five pupils who were eligible to attend but owing to the depression at present existent in Darwin several of the older children had had to go to work to assist their parents and it had been found necessary to fill their places in the High School with younger children. It would be noticed by the prize list that some of the children were awarded prizes for perseverance and character, which he thought was the, first principle of à child's life. He wished to thank his assistant teacher and those who had donated the prizes to the scholars. (Applause)
His Worship the. Mayor (Cr. A. W. Adams) said it gave him ^ much pleasure to be present that morning. He had always taken a great interest in the education of children. He had recently read an article in, a^ magazine pi the life of Chopin. At an early age it was found that Chopin was a born pianist and at the age of nine -years some friends furnished the funds whereby he; could be educated. He (the speaker) had not had a very great education but he was satisfied that every child had, some sort of a tendency of character and if that tendency was allowed to take its course. children would adopt the profession or trade they desired. He knew two sisters in Birmingham one of whom ' had become a great pianist and had told him she practised eight hours a day, but the other sister would not look at music, which bore out his argument in regard to character He did not expect the children present there that day to study for eight hours. Very often a child who was good; at history, figures, etc, was put to a profession "which was unsuited to" them and parents, before placing their children in any profession or trade should study their character He knew Joseph Norman Lockyer, the great astronomer. Lockyer was a poor boy and his ambition was to study the stars.' He went to a schoolmaster who lent him several books and helped him along, with the result that Lockyer became a famous astronomer. He believed that Lockyer’s success was due to his adopting the profession he loved. In conclusion he asked the children to study as much as possible and when they left school to. try and be a credit to their country. Dr. Richardson said it gave him much pleasure1 to .be present at the gathering."- It did not seem many years since he had sat on the benches with elderly and- grave* school masters in front of him and, had learnt such things as the distance from the earth to the sun and moon.
But he had discovered that it was after leaving school that the struggle in life began and Mr. Lampe had said that it was the characteristic qualities in a child's life that decided its future. He would conclude by quoting to them a dogmatic phrase which was in his mind and that was to strive to make life successful and if that could not be done to do the next -best thing and make life as successful as they- could. (Applause).
Mr. C- A. Dempsey said that on looking around the room those present could not say they were young as far as life goes. He had been a bouncing baby boy at one time and had also attended school. He knew they were listening to what he was saying but he was not going to bore them. He would advise them that in order to be successful in life they, must honor their father and mother, must not be selfish, honour their teachers, and to learn air they could be honest, truthful, and to cultivate a respect for their elders. He would donate 10/6 each to the best boy and girl in the school for general proficiency next year. He concluded by wishing the children a merry Xmas.
Rev. Skelton said that when he came that morning he thought – he would he seen and not heard- However it seemed that he would be both seen and heard las it gave him an opportunity of expressing his views. It did not seem very many years; since he had attended school and sat on the school benches. He would not detain them long but hoped they would take up their books and study a little during the vacation and hoped they would thoroughly- enjoy their holidays.
The distribution of prizes then took place.
After the prizes had been awarded Dr. H. Leighton Jones, in an address to the children, said it gave him ¡great pleasure to be there that morning. He told the children that when they left school their lives had only begun. He had studied up till he was about 30, and was still studying, and still hoped to be a scholar. He would advise the children during their holidays to read their books and study, and when they came back to school they should strive to be as successful as possible.
Mr. Story followed and told them to study as much as possible and to try to reach the top of the tree. As an aborigine in his natural state fished for a living and caught 'possums, so must they study and learn in order to be successful in life. He advised them during the holidays to 'take up their books occasionally and study them, so that when they returned to school after the vacation, they would pe in a position to make good progress next year.
Rev. Foulkes in addressing the children said some of the speakers had mentioned that it did, not seem many years since they had been at school. To him- it seemed as if he had only left school about three days. There was one incident in his school life which he had not forgotten. He had been severely caned on various occasions by a ' lady teacher and one day she did something to him and for which he never forgot her. He was taken out of the class and, instead of being caned she took him in her arms and kissed him.
Previous speakers had told them to look at their books during the holidays and he would advise them to do the same thing, although he had never looked at his books during the vacations. The speaker concluded his remarks by wishing the children a pleasant holiday and hoped when they came -back to school they would-feel equal to the task of facing the year's work in front of them.
The following is a list of the prize-winners:
Conduct and Diligence. -- Reg. Gurry, Lyla Nelson, Herbert Wong, Douglas Lampe, Daisy Sarib, Leah Ah Mat, Muriel Watts, Laura Edwards
Class Examination Prize. – Nellie Edwards. Alf. Gurry, Charlie Lew Fat, Sue Ah Fan.
Attendance. - Vera Watts, Norman Lampe
Perseverance. - George McIntyre, Daphne Allwright.
Class Examination Prizes. - Choo Sang, Thelma Finniss.
Attendance. - Harold Nuttall, Jessie Barry,
Perseverance- Shue Quen, Melba Dargie
Class Examination Prizes- Charlie Kwong, Phillis Osborne.
Attendance. - Charlie Finniss.
Perseverance- Charles Lee, Fermin Lareque.
Class Examination Prizes. - Moe Ted, Mabel Wong.
Attendance. - Don. Watts, Jim Watts.
Perseverance. - Albert Que Noy, Rosie Gun Sang.
Class Examination Prizes- Ken Gurry, Maud Burton.
Perseverance- Jean Osborne, W. Allwright.
Class Examination Prize- Arthur Wright.
High school Class.
Class Examination Prizes -Lizzie Yook Lin, Harry Fisher.
Combined Attendance and Perseverance- Victor Brown, Jean Burton, Stella Nelson.
Qualifying Certificates. –
Arthur Wright, Victor Brown, Stella Nelson, Alice Fisher, Jean Burton, Muriel Knowles, Heather Bell, Jacob Pon.
The following are the donors of the prizes: - The Mayor, (Cr. A. W Adams), Messrs. C. B. Story (Government Secretary), C. A. Dempsey Rev. Skelton.
30 Dec 1922 NTTG
DARWIN SCHOOL (To the Editor!)
Sir, -In your last issue, I am pleased to see "A Parent" is endeavouring to arouse the parents to a sense of their responsibility, viz, the education and welfare of their children.
There are four teachers and one Headmaster in the Darwin school a staff sufficient for one of the largest school s in the South. The people should urge promptly and without any hesitation, for a reorganisation of the teaching staff.
21 August 1823
[Parap School struggled for existence in the early 1920s. With the improvement of Darwin Public School. it was closed and the children were supposed to walk into town instead. There was such an outcry that Parap school soon reopened. Parap children who reached secondary age were then advised by some to study correspondence education through Victoria – Ed.]:
Education by Post.
(To the Editor.) Sir, In reference to Miss Elsie Bohning, and her plea for better educational facilities, I may mention that I have written to her mother, advising her to apply to have the children enrolled in the Correspondence Blanch of the Victorian State school . And I have also written to the Headmaster of that Branch on the same subject. When the Parap school was closed, last year, I got three of my children enrolled in this correspondence branch, and can testify that they have received remarkable benefit from such teaming, as the teachers take a personal interest in each child enrolled, Careful attention is paid to spelling and writing, and to the general neatness of the work. These points are usually ignored by present day teachers. Also, parents are not only expected, but desired to take an active interest in their children's work. A generous help is always given, difficulties cleared away, and the parents made to feel that they are welcomed as helpers. Mothers and fathers who are unable to educate their children properly or to send their children to school , would do well to enrol them in the correspondence branch of the Victorian State schools, they would never regret having done so.
Yours faithfully. J. S. LITCHFIELD (NTTG 21 August 1923)
[Mr V. L LAMPE, B.A., Director of Education, Darwin, informs us that arrangements are being made whereby education by post will be conducted by the Darwin school-ED.] (NTTG 21 August 1923).
28 July 1925
CHILDRENS PICNIC AT DARWIN PUBLIC SCHOOL
Thanks to the generosity of Col Leane, who left a donation for that purpose before he "left the Territory the children of Darwin and Parap had a splendid picnic in the Darwin school grounds on Friday, July 24th. More than 150 children attended the picnic, all ages, sex, colors and creeds, being represented. Yet not the severest critic could have found any fault with the behaviour of the children, who loyally helped the younger and weaker of their numbers, to enter for the various novelty races and who cheered the winners heartily.
The various races were all keenly and cleanly contested; they were enjoyed, as heartily by the competitors as by the Spectators, and many were the laughs over the tumbles and falls in the sack-race, wheel barrow race, and three legged race. Tailing the donkey, and eyeing the pig were also productive of much merriment, for the small folk placed the eye on the tail in all sorts of queer places and unexpected spots. Tugs-of-war, skipping backwards, relay races, threading the needle, and egg and spoon races were all sports that evoked much laughter, and so also did the kangaroo races.
Over 5O races, including heats and finals, were run off during the afternoon, but everything passed off without a hitch. A motor car was provided for. the children of Parap and they gave a good account of themselves in the numerous events. After the sports were over, refreshments were provided, and the various prizes distributed to the winners.
Dusk was falling as the tired but happy children wended their way homewards. During the afternoon Mrs. Lampe, Mrs. King, and the lady teachers entertained the parents and friends at afternoon tea, which was served on the balcony of the schoolhouse. Mr. Lampe thanked all the friends who so ably assisted him in making the picnic and sports such a success. The children hope that this picnic will be the fore runner of many more. . .
Following is a list of the prize-winners in the various events
Infant girls, K. Nicholas, V. Kennedy, H. Watts.
J Infant boys, C. Chambers, H. Cala, W. Lau.
Sack race, girls under 10, S. Hang Bow. C Litchfield, D. Sarib.
Girls, over 10, J. Larcani, D. Chin, B. Litchfield.
Sack race, boys under 10, X. Lampe, C Bong BL Lampe.
Sack race boys over 10, S. Ling, Ji Rogers, C Lew Fat.
Kangaroo Races, girls under 10, M Watts, & Hang Bow, C. Litchfield.
Kangaroo Race, girls over 10, L. Ah Mat E. Gilroy. J. Ormond.
Kangaroo race, boys under 10, V. Thompson, N. LAMPE, K. Litchfield.
Kangaroo race, boys over - 10, R Yuen. J. Watts, J. Rogers.
Siamese race, girls under 10, J. Barnett and J. Doing, V. Kennedy and C Litchfield
Over 10, P.' Osborne and E., Murray. E. Doling and J. Ormond. Boys under 10, H. Cook and V. Thompson, A. Allwright and J. Lee ' Over 10, E. Spain and J. Watts.
V. Lampe and J. McGuinness.
Threading the Needle, girls under 10. C Litchfield, N. Murray D. Sarib
7 Over 10, J. Osborne, J. Larequi. D Chin.
Egg and Spoon race, girls under 10 C. Litchfield, S. Hang Bow, Q. Chin.
Over 10, D. Chin, L Ah Mat. B. Litchfield.
Painting Pig's eye, girls under - 10, N: Chin. D. Sarib V. Kennedy
Over 10. D. Chin, J. Larequi, M. Lee.
Skipping backwards, girls und r 10 M. Watts, N. Murray, D. Sarib.
Over 10. P. Osborne, J. Osborne, L. Sueng.
Pick-a-back race, boys under 10 N. and D. Lampe, C. Bong and C
Over 10, P. Nicholas and N Chin, F- Larequi and C. Goods.
Tug-of-war, boys under' 10, N. Lampe's team. _
Over 10, F. Larequi's team.
Relay race, boys, C. Lee's team.
Wheelbarrow race, boys under 10 C. Bong and N. Lampe, J. Lee, and C. Lew Fat
Over 10, F. Larequi and C. Goode, I. Bell, and E. Spain.
Paint the donkey's Tall, boys under 10. ft. Yuen. A. Allwright. N Lampe.
Over 10, L. Chin, Sue Him, J. Magripilis.
13 Dec 1927 NTT
BREAKING-UP DAY AT DARWIN SCHOOL
Darwin school broke up for the Christmas Holidays on Friday. Among the visitors assembled there we noticed His Honor the Administrator and Mrs Weddell, Mesdames Gurry, Litchfield, Snell, Barrett, Burton, Clarke James, Miles, Davies. Mr. Dempsey, (who kindly presented the prizes won by Class V,) and Mr W. Stanley. I
Proceedings opened with a chorus, "The Song of Australia," by the senior children, after which the schoolmaster, Mr V. L. LAMPE, gave his annual report. He stated that the
general health of the children had been excellent, and that the average attendance was one hundred and ten. The Inspector, in his annual visit, classified the general condition of the
school as "very satisfactory" and he was well satisfied with what he saw
of the school and the scholars.
The kindergarten children sang "A Fairy Ship," and Colonel Weddell, then gave a very interesting and instructive address. A song by the senior children, "Christmas Bells,'* was well rendered, and Mr Dempsey gave his address, to which the children listened attentively. After another song, "Hark! The Bells are Ringing!" Mrs Weddell distributed the prizes to the winners in each class, and proceedings closed with the singing of "God Save the King."
The kindergarten children then adjourned to another room, where the Christmas tree was soon denuded of its load of gifts. During this event, the older children were plied with refreshments, and after the kindergarten children had received their presents, they too adjourned below stairs for a share of the goodies.
Parents and visitors were entertained at morning tea by Mr and Mrs Lampe, and after a pleasant chat, the function concluded with mutual expressions of the best of Christmas
wishes. We subjoin a list of the prize-winners.
I. General Proficiency. -A. Class
I. (Kindergarten) First Half Year,
Patrick Shaw, Con Scott, Willie Lee, Amy Lee, Bessie Que Noy, Marjorie Dunn.
Second Half Year, Mabel Yuen, Gloria Lampe.
Third Half Year, Michael Margaritas, Walter Blown, Sydney Chin, Gertie Moo.
B. Class II, Bertram Mettam, Henry Lee. Charles Chin, Irene Hawke,
Annie Sarib. C Cass III, James Lee, Harry Moo, Emlyn Davies, Nellie Chili, Maudie Yuen.
D. Class IV., Rex Lowe, Charlie Kum Tim, Edward Fong, Queenie Chin, Gwyneth Davies.
E. Cass V., Alfred Gurry, Norman Lampe, Shue Ming, Jessie Barry, Lucy Que Noy.
Dux of school: Alfred Gurry.
II. Attendance Prizes. -A. Class I Walter Brown.
B. Class II. Irene Hawke.
C. Class III. Harry Moo, Willie Jan, J Lee, Nellie Chin, Marie Ah Mat, Ethel Cooper.
D. Class IV. George Nicholas Sheilah Caesar. E. Class V. Alfred Gurry, Charlie Bong, Shue Ming.
Class V prizes presented by C. A. Dempsey Esq.
6 April 1928 Letter competition
I like school very much. Why? well because I learn to read and write there. I am always anxious to get to school to see my playmates. We have eighteen scholars going to our school, six girls and twelve boys. We have had a lady-teacher here for a long while, her name is Mrs Carruth, but she is going away by the "Malabar”, which is leaving Darwin for south next Thursday, April 5th. We'll be getting a Gentleman teacher; his name is Mr Tambling. Sometimes we play games at school such as: - Twos and Threes, Three Jolly Workmen, Puss in the Corner, Fox and Chickens, Johnnie Lingo etc. At other times we sit down and read or ask riddles.
I have a sister and two brothers going to school with me. I am in the Fifth Class.
The subjects I like best are: - Drawing, Arithmetic and Grammar Our school is on high stumps, it is nice and cool under the school. School goes in at half past eight and comes out at half past twelve. I live not far from the school, so I have only a little distance to walk. Some children have a mile to walk to school.
15 Nov 1935 ‘Darwin Notes’ NTTG
Mr. V. L. Lampe, Director of Education, Darwin, is resigning his position as Stipendiary Magistrate.
18 Nov 1949 Centralian Advocate
DEATH OF MR. V. L. Lampe Former N.T. Education Man
News has been received of the death in an Adelaide Hospital of Mr. Victor Leslie Lampe, who was for nearly thirty years Superintendent of Education in the Northern Territory. Mr. Lampe came to the Northern Territory in 1913 as Head Teacher and Superintendent of Education and spent the greater part of his time in Darwin where he became well-known in sporting circles.
After the bombing of Darwin in 1942, Mr. Lampe went to Adelaide and subsequently resigned his position because of ill-health. He has been in bad health for some time. He was aged about 63 at the time of his death. He left a widow, and one of his sons, Douglas, is at present on the staff of N.T. Administration in Darwin. There are three other children all married — and five grandchildren.
Nine hours drive from Makassar, in the mountainous South Sulawesi is a region known as Tana Toraja, with its capital at Rantepao. It is populated by the Torajans, a proud ethnic group of mainly Christian people with animist leanings, who enjoy a kind of celebrity status in Indonesia because their unique architecture, culture and funerary customs are well known by all and a ‘must see’ on everyone’s bucket list.
Like most travel in Indonesia it is it remarkably easy to get there. I contacted a driver, Pak Rasyid, by phone, and he took me under his wing and looked after me for a week. Flying in to Makassar from Bali, he was waiting with a handy sign at the airport and within minutes we were on the road north and in the highlands at a Rantepao resort by nightfall.
The Torajan culture appears to be alive and well, perhaps in spite of decades of tourism promotion by the government. Torajan houses, called tongkanan, are at the centre of every village and daily life, and they are everywhere in this part of the highlands. These magnificent carved houses stand high on wooden piles with huge sweeping curved arc roofs, apparently reminiscent of the shape of the ships that brought the Torajans to Sulawesi some 25 generations ago. The Torajan colours of red, yellow, and black add exquisite detail to the carved patterns of the walls.
Christianity was brought by Dutch missionaries early last century, but for many the old animism customs continue, particularly in their dealing with the dead and beliefs in reincarnation. Wealth was traditionally measured by the number of buffalos a family owned, though these days it is augmented by remittances from family members who live elsewhere, and income from tourists. The government ensures there are a few sites identified and promoted for tourism purposes, which has the advantage of protecting a thousand other traditional family sites by concentrating the effects of their ceaseless tramping feet. It also allows for the hosts of souvenir shops that gather around each attraction like tax collectors around a Roman temple. In these crowded commercial dens you can buy everything from your very own tautau effigy of the dead, razor sharp swords and bamboo flutes, to Torajan coffee, cloth and sailing ships in bottles.
“Tomorrow,” Pak Rasyid told me, “we will go to see some caves and you can buy a souvenir.”
“That’s where I’ll be put, up there,” said Remi: young, vital, and clearly not about to die soon. He was pointing to a pile of coffins. They weren’t stacked neatly, but one upon another wherever they fit. They were mostly plain wooden boxes, although occasionally one was delicately carved with Torajan motifs. Lower coffins were ancient rotting shells whose walls had crumbled so badly that bones had tumbled out.
“All my family is there, for hundreds of years.”
“And those bones…?”
“Yes, my ancestors, but long ago. You can see my grandfather up there on the left… the red coffin.”
His grandfather clearly hadn’t been there that long, but like the others his casket had been pushed into the gap so that at least part of it was within the shallow limestone cave. The cave already seemed full.
“What happens when you can’t get any more coffins in?” I asked.
“Simple, we’ll cut the cave larger. The nobles all have graves carved straight into the rock, look up there.”
Remi pointed out square holes which had been carved straight into the limestone cliff, high up on the wall above us. They had padlocked doors to deter grave robbers, but some were so high the lack of bamboo scaffolding needed to reach them must have been protection enough. Outside the rich graves, wooden effigies of the dead, tautau, sat on carved ledges, their bone-white eyes gazing out across the valley.
We entered a cave at the base of the limestone cliff. Bones and rotten caskets lay everywhere. Many of the skulls had been collected and placed along rock ledges. They leered back at me in the gas-lamp light Remy was charging 50,000 rupiah to use.
One broken casket had several skulls lying among a tangle of long bones and ribs.
“Poor people are buried in here. Sometimes they use the same coffin many times. The bodies rot down to make more room.”
Why such elaborate funerals here in Toraja? Why are they so important?
Reincarnation, I was told. When people die they are really only just sick. They sit, mummified, in a corner of the house, sometimes for years, until the family can lay on a lavish funeral. Only then can reincarnation occur.
A thought occurred to me. “These poor people, the ones who share coffins… would it be possible for a person to be buried in the same coffin again and again, each time he was reincarnated?”
Remi laughed. “I am sure it has happened.”
I wondered what it would be like to know so much about what was going to happen after death. Could I find out?
“What if I moved to Toraja – would I be allowed to be buried in one of these caves?”
“No, it is only for Torajans,” said Remi.
“What if I brought a lot of money,” I proffered.
“Give it to me now, and I’ll see what I can do… maybe,” he grinned.
The next day Pak Rasyid told me of a Torajan funeral across the valley we could see. I hesitated, would a tourist be welcome at such an event?
“Of course,” he said. “Everyone is welcome. The funeral is a huge celebration of life. People save for it their whole lives. It is aluk todolo, the way of the ancestors.”
As we approached, we could see red flags on houses, and hundreds of darkly-clothed people waiting under elaborately carved shade houses. A group of young children, princesses, were gathered by an open-sided shelter. We stopped and chatted. They were dressed in white, with red, yellow, and black beaded headdresses and belts and were waiting for the tautau to arrive. The effigy would be placed on a chair at the back, and her immediate family would sit around her, and eat the food brought to them.
The old lady, Ibu Bertha Duma, had been ‘noble’ and wealthy, so the crowd waited in anticipation of an extravagant show. She had died the previous year and this was the first day of the several days of ceremony and celebration. As a corpse, she had been thought of as ill, or sleeping, and she had been symbolically fed and dressed by the family each day since she had died. Even now, everyone knew her soul was lingering around the village, waiting for the last day of the funeral when her body would be placed in a high cave, carved into the family’s cliff. Only then could her spirit depart for Puya, the Land of Souls, accompanied by the spirits of the buffalos slaughtered at her funeral.
A dozen elderly women in purple silk shirts and intricately patterned sarongs started to rhythmically beat a drum log, and pigs were carried in, tied tightly to poles. A buffalo was led down the path into the village by a group of youths. This was the first of thirty brightly decorated buffalos, worth $2000 each, which would be slaughtered and shared out among the villagers.
The horns and jawbones of the offerings would return to the house and be attached to the growing stack against it. More horns mean higher status.
The drumming started again and music from reed flutes announced the arrival of the tautau. The old lady had been replicated in wood. She sat on a chair which was tied to bamboo poles for the porters. She was resplendent in a bright purple dress with orange beaded necklaces and conical shade hat. A large ring glinted on a wooden finger as a crowd danced it to its place. The princesses busied themselves to welcome it and the kin of the deceased moved into walled family stalls around it, ready for lunch.
Two lines of black-clothed man and women holding a bright red strip of cloth above their heads arrived. The women wore beaded necklaces of the same orange colour as the tautau. A hundred meters or more long, the cloth was tied to the elaborately carved coffin, carried on a bamboo frame by several dozen men. There was no sadness. The coffin was danced down, and thrown about in joy. People laughed and cheered and shouted advice, the drumming was incessant. A hundred helping hands passed the coffin five meters up a ramp to a shaded platform, carved and painted in red, black, and yellow. Prayers were called out across the crowd, unintelligible to me in the Torajan language.
On the ground below, the first buffalo’s jugular was stabbed by a flattened spearhead. Its removal drew out a bright red fountain, but the beast made no sound as it slowly collapsed. It was quickly butchered, and another behind it, in a flurry of small black flies. Small children gaped in awe as the blood flowed.
The crowd shrank back into the shade as food boxes and water cups arrived for lunch. There was a pause as people ate.
We moved back to the tautau and took photographs of the family posing with it. The funeral had started well - despite the festering metal scent of fresh blood and the screaming of pigs, everyone was pleased.
The drumming started again and a line of about 50 men, dressed in identical dark purple shirts with Ibu Bertha’s name on their backs, formed a circle near the tautau. They held hands and began a slow dance, chanting a dirge. On and on they went, sadness fell across the crowd at last. This was, after all, a funeral.