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Banda Islands
The Banda Islands (Indonesian: Kepulauan Banda) are a volcanic group of ten small volcanic islands in the Banda Sea, about 140km south of Seram island and about 2000km east of Java, and are part of the Indonesian province of Maluku. The main town and administrative centre is Bandanaira, located on the island of the same name. They rise out of 4-6 km deep ocean and have a total land area of approximately 180 km�. They have a population of about 15,000. Until the mid 19th century the Banda Islands were the world's only source of the spices nutmeg and mace, produced from the nutmeg tree. The islands are also popular destinations for scuba diving and snorkeling.

There are seven inhabited islands and several that are uninhabited. The inhabited islands are:
Main group
  • Banda Neira, or Naira, the island with the administrative capital and a small airfield (as well as accommodation for visitors).
  • Gunung Api, an active volcano with a peak of about 650 m
  • Banda Besar is the largest island, 12km long and 3km wide. It has three main settlements, Lonthoir, Selamon and Waer.
Some distance to the west
  • Pulau Ai or Pulau Ay
  • Pulau Run, further west again.
To the east
  • Pulau Pisang, also known as Syahrir.
To the southeast
  • Pulau Hatta formerly Rosengain or Rozengain
Others, possibly small and/or uninhabited, are:
  • Nailaka, a short distance northeast of Pulau Run
  • Batu Kapal
  • Manuk, an active volcano
  • Pulau Keraka or Pulau Karaka (Crab Island)
  • Manukang
  • Hatta Reef
Pre-European history
Before the arrival of Europeans, Banda had an oligarchic form of government led by orang kaya ('powerful men') and the Bandanese had an active and independent role in trade throughout the archipelago. Banda was the world's only source of nutmeg and mace, spices used as flavourings, medicines, preserving agents, that were at the time highly valued in European markets; sold by Arab traders to the Venetians for exorbitant prices. The traders did not divulge the exact location of their source and no European was able to deduce their location.

The first written accounts of Banda are in Suma Oriental, a book written by the Portuguese apothecary Tom� Pires who based in Malacca from 1512 to 1515 but who visited Banda several times. On his first visit, he interviewed the Portuguese and the far more knowledgeable Malay sailors in Malacca. He estimated the early sixteenth century population to be 2500-3000. He reported the Bandanese as being part of an Indonesia-wide trading network and the only native Malukan long-range traders taking cargo to Malacca, although shipments from Banda were also being made by Javanese traders.

In addition to the production of nutmeg and mace, Banda maintained significant entrepot trade; goods that move through Banda include cloves from Ternate and Tidore in the north, bird of paradise feathers from the Aru islands and western New Guinea, massoi bark for traditional medicines, and slaves. In exchange, Banda predominantly received rice and cloth; namely light cotton batik from Java, calicoes from India and ikat from the Lesser Sundas. In 1603, an average quality sarong-sized cloth traded for eighteen kilograms of nutmeg. Some of these textiles were then on-sold, ending up in Halmahera and New Guinea. Coarser ikat from the Lesser Sundas was traded for sago from the Kei Islands, Aru and Seram.

The Portuguese
In August 1511 on behalf of the king of Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, which at the time was the hub of Asian trade. In November of that year, after having secured Malacca and learning of the Bandas' location, Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships led by his good friend Ant�nio de Abreu to find them. Malay pilots, either recruited or forcibly conscripted, guided them via Java, the Lesser Sundas and Ambon to Banda, arriving in early 1512.

The first Europeans to reach the Bandas, the expedition remained in Banda for about one month, purchasing and filling their ships with Banda's nutmeg and mace, and with cloves in which Banda had a thriving entrep�t trade. D'Abreu sailed through Ambon while his second in command Francisco Serr�o went ahead towards Maluku islands, was shipwrecked and ended up in Ternate. Distracted by hostilities else where in the archipelago, such as Ambon and Ternate, the Portuguese did not return until 1529; a Portuguese trader Captain Garcia landed troops in the Bandas.

Five of the Banda islands were within gunshot of each other and he realised that a fort on the main island Neira would give him full control of the group. The Bandanese were however hostile to such a plan and their warlike antics were both costly and tiresome to Garcia who's men were attacked when they attempted to build a fort. From then on, the Portuguese were infrequent visitors to the islands preferring to buy their nutmeg from traders in Malacca.

Unlike other eastern Indonesian islands, such as Ambon, Solor, Ternate and Morotai, the Bandanese displayed no enthusiasm for Christianity or the Europeans who brought it in the sixteenth century, and no serious attempt was made to Christianise the Bandanese. Maintaining their independence, the Bandanese never allowed the Portuguese to build a fort or a permanent post in the islands. Ironically though, it was this lack of ports which brought the Dutch to trade at Banda instead of the clove islands of Ternate and Tidore.

The coming of the Dutch
The Dutch followed the Portuguese to Banda but were to have a much more dominating and lasting presence. Dutch-Bandanese relations were mutually resentful from the outset, with Holland�s first merchants complaining of Bandanese reneging on agreed deliveries and price, and cheating on quantity and quality. For the Bandanese, on the other hand, although they welcomed another competitor purchaser for their spices, the items of trade offered by the Dutch�heavy woollens, and damasks, unwanted manufactured goods, for example�were usually unsuitable in comparison to traditional trade products. The Javanese, Arab and Indian, and Portuguese traders for example brought indispensable items along steel knives, copper, medicines with prized Chinese porcelain.

As much as the Dutch disliked dealing with the Bandanese, the trade was a highly profitable one with spices selling for 300 times the purchase price in Banda. This amply justified the expense and risk in shipping them to Europe. It is even likely that the resulting boom helped finance an artistic renaissance in Holland support the likes of Rembrandt van Rijn. The allure of such profits saw an increasing number of Dutch expeditions; it was soon seen that competition from each would eat into all their profits. Thus the competitors united to form the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) (the �Dutch East Indies Company).

Until the early seventeenth century the Banda's were ruled by a group of leading citizens, the orang kaya (literally 'rich men'), each of these was a head of district. At the time nutmeg was one of the "fine spices" kept expensive in Europe by disciplined manipulation of the market, but a desirable commodity for Dutch traders in the ports of India as well; economic historian Fernand Braudel notes that India consumed twice as much as Europe. A number of Banda�s orang kaya were persuaded (or deceived) by the Dutch to sign a treaty granting the Dutch a monopoly on spice purchases. Even though the Bandanese had little understanding of the significance of the treaty known as 'The Eternal Compact', or that not all Bandanese leaders had signed, it would later be used to justify Dutch troops being brought in to defend their monopoly.

The Bandanese soon grew tired of the Dutch actions; the low prices, the useless trade items, and the enforcement of Dutch sole rights to the purchase of the coveted spices. The end of the line for the Bandanese came in 1609 when the Dutch reinforced Fort Nassau on Bandanaira Island. The orang kaya called a meeting with the Dutch admiral and forty of his highest-ranking men, and ambushed and killed them all.

English-Dutch rivalry

While Portuguese and Spanish activity in the region had weakened, the English had built fortified trading posts on tiny Ai and Run islands, ten to twenty kilometres from the main Banda Islands. With the British paying higher prices, they were significantly undermining Dutch aims for a monopoly, and as Dutch-British tensions increased, the Dutch built, in 1611, the larger and more strategic Fort Belgica, above Fort Nassau. In 1615, the Dutch invaded Ai with 900 men and the British retreated to Run where they regrouped. That same night, the British launched a surprise counter-attack on Ai retaking the island and killing 200 Dutchmen.

 A year later, a much stronger Dutch force attacked Ai which itself was initially hampered by cannonade fire, but after a month of siege the defenders ran out of ammunition and were slaughtered. The Dutch strengthened the fort renaming it 'Fort Revenge'. European control of the Bandas was still contested up until 1667 when, under the Treaty of Breda (1667), the British traded the small island of Run for Manhattan, giving the Dutch full control of the Banda archipelago.

On August 9th, 1810. The British captured the Islands and accepted their surrender from the Dutch after engaging the Fortifications in action by Captain C. Cole, with the British warships of HMS Caroline thirty-six guns, HMS Piedmontaise, thirty-eight guns, Captain Foote and the HMS Barracouta, eighteen guns. Captain Kenah, having on board about one hundred men of the Madras European Regiment after sailing from Madras with supplies for Amboyna, recently captured by the British.

Massacre of the Bandanese
Newly-appointed VOC governor-general Jan Pieterszoon Coen set about enforcing Dutch monopoly over the Banda�s spice trade. In 1621 well-armed soldiers were landed on Bandaneira Island and within a few days they had also occupied neighbouring and larger Lontar. The orang kaya were forced at gunpoint to sign an unfeasibly arduous treaty, one that was in fact impossible to keep, thus providing Coen an excuse to use superior Dutch force against the Bandanese.[6] The Dutch quickly noted a number of alleged violations of the new treaty, in response to which Coen launched a punitive massacre. Japanese mercenaries were hired to deal with the orang kaya, forty of whom were beheaded with their heads impaled and displayed on bamboo spears.

The population of the Banda Islands prior to Dutch conquest is generally estimated to have been around 13-15,000 people, some of whom were Malay and Javanese traders, as well as Chinese and Arabs. The actual numbers of Bandanese who were killed, forcibly expelled or fled the islands in 1621 remain uncertain. But readings of historical sources suggest around one thousand Bandanese likely survived in the islands, and were spread throughout the nutmeg groves as forced labourers.

The Dutch subsequently re-settled the islands with imported slaves, convicts and indentured labourers (to work the nutmeg plantations), as well as immigrants from elsewhere in Indonesia. Most survivors fled as refugees to the islands of their trading partners, in particular Keffing and Guli Guli in the Seram Laut chain and Kei Besar. Shipments of surviving Bandanese were also sent to Batavia (Jakarta) to work as slaves in developing the city and its fortress. Some 530 of these individuals were later returned to the islands because of their much-needed expertise in nutmeg cultivation (something sorely lacking among newly-arrived Dutch settlers).

Whereas up until this point the Dutch presence had been simply as traders, that was sometimes treaty-based, the Banda conquest marked the start of the first overt colonial rule in Indonesia albeit under the auspices of the VOC.

VOC Monopoly

Having decimated the islands' population, Coen divided the productive land of approximately half a million nutmeg trees into sixty-eight 1.2-hectare perken. These land parcels were then handed to Dutch planters known as perkeniers of which 34 were on Lontar, 31 on Ai and 3 on Neira. With few Bandanese left to work them, slaves from elsewhere were brought in. Now enjoying control of the nutmeg production the VOC paid the perkeniers 1/122nd of the Dutch market price for nutmeg, however, the perkeniers still profited immensely building substantial villas with opulent imported European decorations.

The outlying island of Run was harder for the VOC to control and they exterminated all nutmeg trees there. The production and export of nutmeg was a VOC monopoly for almost two hundred years. Fort Belgica, one of many forts built by the Dutch East India Company, is one of the largest remaining European forts in Indonesia.

Religious violence between Christians and Muslims, spilling over from inter-communal conflict in Ambon affected the islands in the late 1990s. The disturbance and resulting deaths damaged the previously prosperous tourism industry.

Bandanese culture
Most of the present-day inhabitants of the Banda Islands are descended from migrants and plantation labourers from various parts of Indonesia, as well as from indigenous Bandanese. They have inherited aspects of pre-colonial ritual practices in the Bandas that are highly valued and still performed, giving them a distinct and very local cultural identity.

In addition, Bandanese speak a distinct Malay Dialect which has several features distinguishing it from Ambonese Malay, the better-known and more widespread dialect that forms a lingua franca in central and southeast Maluku. Bandanese Malay is famous in the region for its unique, lilting accent, but it also has a number of locally identifying words in its lexicon, many of them borrowings or loanwords from Dutch.

Examples :
  • fork : forok (Dutch vork)
  • ants : mir (Dutch mier)
  • spoon : lepe (Dutch lepel)
  • difficult : lastek (Dutch lastig)
  • floor : plur (Dutch vloer)
  • porch: stup (Dutch stoep)
Banda Malay shares many Portuguese loanwords with Ambonese Malay not appearing in the national language, Indonesian. But it has comparatively fewer, and they differ in pronunciation.

  • turtle : tetaruga (Banda Malay); totoruga (Ambonese Malay) (from Portuguese tartaruga)
  • throat : gargontong (Banda Malay); gargangtang (Ambonese Malay) (from Portuguese garganta)
Finally, and most noticeably, Banda Malay uses some distinct pronouns. The most immediately distinguishing is that of the second person singular familiar form of address: pan�.

The descendants of some of the Bandanese who fled Dutch conquest in the seventeenth century live in the Kai Islands (Kepulauan Kei) to the east of the Banda group, where a version of the original Banda language is still spoken in the villages of Banda Eli and Banda Elat on Kai Besar Island. While long integrated into Kei Island society, residents of these settlements continue to value the historical origins of their ancestors.

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