In 1985, Dr Nigel Barley, then senior anthropologist at The British Museum, taught himself Indonesian and set off for the relatively unknown Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Here he hoped to find unsullied cultures to study and unspoilt natives to investigate. Barley soon found plenty to wonder at and plenty to admire among the Toraja, a vastly interesting people whose culture includes headhunting, transvestite priests and the massacre of buffalo.
In witty and finely crafted prose, Barley offers fascinating insight into the people of Sulawesi and their lifestyles, and he recounts hilarious tales of the many memorable characters he meets there, not least the four Torajan woodcarvers the author invites back to London to construct an Indonesian rice barn in The British Museum. This quartet of Indonesian Marx Brothers soon discover the joys of pornographic films and the London Zoo, although they never get to grips with turning off bathroom taps.
About the author
Nigel Barley is the author of twenty books with Penguin, Time Warner, Monsoon Books and Little,Brown. He originally trained as an anthropologist and worked in West Africa, spending time with the Dowayo people of North Cameroon. He survived to move to the Ethnography Department of the British Musem and it was in this connection that he first travelled to Southeast Asia. After forrays into Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Burma, Barley settled on Indonesia as his principal research interest and has worked on both the history and contemporary culture of that area. After escaping from the museum, he is now a writer and broadcaster and divides his time between London and Indonesia.