From the sheer size of the village, the ancient Tongkonan buildings seem to loom over as sentinels of the Torajan lore itself. Even the stone stairs appear to be woven for giants to step upon. Ke’te Ke’su is one of the most pristine and traditional Tongkonan complexes throughout all Toraja, and it will capture your attention with each glance.
Ke’te Kesu’ is nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is easy to understand why. The village is one of the most complete traditional Torajan settlements in the highlands. The site consists of 6 Tongkonan houses along the main avenue, 12 granaries, a large open ceremonial ground and burial site. The village is surrounded by rice fields and can only be accessed by following a small track.
You can see the village over the open ground from the main road. Buffalos roll around in the mud by the side of the track. Behind them two rows of Tongkonan, with the traditional saddleback appearance, stand in a row. From a distance, the bright colors painted on the side of the buildings catch the eye.
It is estimated that Ke’te Kesu’ was first settled 300 years ago. However, relics found at the burial site date back more than 500 years implying there have been settlements close to hear for significantly longer. The tombs located close to the village are mostly cliff and stone burials.
The village of Ke’te Kesu’ is recognised in the highlands of Toraja as a place where traditional customs are preserved. Torajan ceremonies are held at the site from June through to December. If you want to learn more about the history and culture of Ke’te Kesu’ you can also visit the museum, which is located in one of the Tongkonan.
The museum has a collection of artifacts gathered from around the site that includes carvings, ceramics, sculptures, weapons and even fabrics from as far afield as China. The museum is an interesting place to visit and offers a glimpse into the past and the history of Ke’te Kesu’.
It is easy to visit Ke’te Kesu’ from Rantepao, the capital of North Toraja district. The village is just 4 km from the outskirts of the city. Though the journey is short the route is beautiful and you pass many beautiful modern examples of Tongkonan along the way.