The province Sulawesi Selatan or South-Sulawesi (often named Sulsel), with 82,768 sq.km., is as large as England, is geographically and culturally very varied. Sulsel has a fertile, low rice area, high rising mountains, a dry southern zone and an exeptionally long coastal area scattered with fishing boats. Along the coast are thousands of boats, among them the beautifull sande from Mandar with high white sails and well-designed fishtraps of rattan and bamboo.
The province is inhabited with four big ethnic groups and several smaller groups. In the northern parts of the peninsula the fertile plains and low hills are replaced by 3,000 meter high mountains, an area which is inhabited by over 600,000 people. They are known as 'Toraja', but locally they have a big variety of names. The most well-known are the Sa'dan Toraja, which got their name from the big brown river which flows through the mountains, and the Mamasa Toraja.
Milions of Buginese live along the remote coastal areas and in big parts of the fertile lowlands. In the southern part of the province and around the seaport of Makasar live several milion Makasarese. Along the northwestern coastal area of the peninsula live half a milion Mandarese, which are said to be the best sailors of entire Sulawesi. These three populations are known throughout the archipelago for their skills in sailing, and the Buginese are also known for colonising remote shores as well.
People live from the land as well as from the sea. Rice is abundant from the well-irigated sawah in the lowlands, while the low hills of the province bring other important products like corn, cassave, sesame, pepper, clove, nutmeg, coffee, cacao, cocnuts and bananas. Many farmers in the inlands make some extra income with silk weaving, fishery and trade.
Rulers of the kingdoms in the lowland adapted islam in the early 17th century; the inhabitants of South-Sulawesi are known for their dedication to this religion. In villages you are waked by the humming of little children singing quran texts. The recital, a part of islamic education, is continued for years on a daily base, until they known them entirely.
However islam pays for a big part of the life on Sulawesi, it's fairly tolerant in general. The people have found ingenious ways to integrate parts of their ancient religions into their daily life. There doesn't seem to be any contradiction in praying to Allah and sacrificing a bunch of bananas to the gods of the sea.
In the former kingdoms and small states of Sulawesi, rank and status were the most important; they were distinguished very well. However the kingdoms do not exsist any more, the hierarchy in the highest layers of society still has a meaning. Language, clothing, how and where you are sitting, the objects with which you are served, and dozens of other hints are used to make clear someone's social position.
Weddings, circumcisions, births and other events in the cycle of life are celebrated in style. Each family tries to hold the most beautiful and big ceremony affordable. The biggest compliment that you can make about such an event is the word ramai, which means busy, noisy and full of live and energy.