Jul 24, 2015

Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us

Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us
is a gorgeous book by Paul Koudounaris, who is an author and photographer specialising in the visual culture of death. The book explores ossuaries, burial caves, and mummies, and the ways people around the world revere their dead. Some might find this macabre, but that's not how I felt about the book. As the writer points out in the introduction, the message is more memento vitae, reminder of life.

Seeing different burial customs from around the world also serves to illustrate how narrow the Western idea of death is. Many cultures see it not as a boundary or border, but a metamorphosis. There's an account of a mummy of a little girl discovered in a cave in the Toraja region of Indonesia, and how she was taken in as a part of a local household. Why? Because they sensed it felt lonely and abandoned. Doing that in a Western country would get you a visit to a psychiatric ward.

Here's the mummy girl.

An interesting and thought-provoking read, with beautiful pictures (fyi, this is a coffee-table book, so it's quite picture-heavy.). I heartily recommend this to anyone with an interest in the subject matter.


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