In 1984 the Indonesian director general of tourism declared Tana Toraja
Regency the touristic "prima donna of South Sulawesi." In a little more
than 15 years the Toraja people of upland Sulawesi had gone from
anthropological obscurity to touristic celebrity. Known for their
spectacular funeral rituals, effigy-filled burial cliffs, and
elaborately carved architecture, the Sa'dan Toraja people of Indonesia
number some 346,000. Although they continue to adhere to the traditions
that so intrigue tourists, the Toraja are a predominantly Christian
minority in a Muslim country. The ever-increasing flow of tourists to
Tana Toraja has precipitated a number of new issues for the Toraja.
Certain aspects of these problems have been discussed elsewhere (Adams
1988; Crystal 1977; Volkman 1982); this article focuses on conflicts
that have emerged between local leaders and Indonesian government
officials involved in tourism planning and tourism zoning.
In our attempts to full understand these clashes and find constructive solutions, we must take several issues into consideration. First, we need to appreciate Toraja conceptions of ownership and authority and examine how they contrast with the notions put forth by outside tourism developers. Second, tourism planners' tendency to approach living villages as "objects" must be curtailed; many of the conflicts in Toraja stem in part from the way in which consultants treat tourist attractions, such as Toraja houses and graves, as objects divorced from living traditions. Third, we must recognize that development is often superimposed on a preexisting structure of ethnic and local rivalries.