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History - Maluku, Ambon, Seram


N.B.: * I found this document on the internet but the website is gone now. If you know the author I would be pleased to give him / her credit.

It takes a lot of time and many books to tell the history of Maluku. Maluku can be divided in three big regions, North, Central and South Maluku.The North is made up by islands like Ternate, Tidore and Halmahera. 
In the16th and 17th centuries, the North Moluccan islands were virtually the sole suppliers of cloves. The Dutch East India Co. looked for ways to break this monopoly, but owing to the combined efforts of the sultanates of Tidore, Ternate, Bacan and Jailolo, it was only with great difficulty that they were able to establish themselves in this region.
They never succeeded, though, in putting a complete stop to the smuggling trade that flourished between the North Moluccas and Makassar on Celebes. The Dutch East India Co. carried out predatory raids or so-called hongi tours into the North Moluccas, in an attempt to destroy the clove plantations. Central Moluccan village chiefs were obliged to aid these incursions by supplying ships and crews. Their unrelenting struggle for power against their Spanish and Portuguese rivals also brought the Dutch into North Moluccan waters. After countless battles in which the native population usually took the stronger side, the Dutch were eventually able to satisfy their lust for power. In 1663 the Spaniards abandoned Tidore, their last stronghold in the North Moluccas. Every ensuing incident of rebellion was quelled by the Dutch with unbelievable force. The fear of the people was so great that they were even prepared to kill their own leaders in order to escape the Dutchman's wrath. In 1655, for example, the people of Kelan offered the Dutch the head of the Prince of Ternate in order to save their city from destruction. The city was spared, but its people lost their freedom.
Today, Ternate is an important center of administration. The economy of the North Moluccas is based on fishing, timber and spices. Owing to the popularity of kretek or clove cigarettes in Indonesia, the demand for cloves is on the increase. On Ternate, Tidore, Moti and Makian, there are almost 500,000 cengkeh (clove) trees spread out over an area that comprises 300,000 hectares. 

The South is made up by islands like Banda, Kai, Aru and Tanimbar. In total 287 islands and islets of which approximately 200 are inhabited.

The South East Moluccas were little affected by the colonial power struggles. It was not until the start of this century, when the missionaries began with their work here, that the peoples strong cultural self-image became subject to outside influences. Today, the majority of Christians can be found among the coastal population, while animism still flourishes in remote areas. Up until a few decades ago, a class society made up of aristocrats, commoners and slaves still existed on a number of the islands west of the Kai group. Even as late as the early 20th century, raiding parties were still being sent out to the Aru Islands and New Guinea in search of slaves, and still today, the descendents of slaves are considered socially unacceptable. 
While the people of the southern islands grow sago as a staple food, on the islands between Alor and Tanimbar, rice is grown by the dry-rice method of cultivation. The island's economy is based on fishing, pearls and timber (iron, wood and rattan). The flora and fauna here show a marked similarity to those of New Guinea and Australia: marsupials such as kangaroos and cuscus, birds of paradise and several species of cockatoo can be found here. Fortunately, many areas of this region have been declared nature reserves. 
Banda always has been famous for its Nutmeg, which originally only grew here. But fast it was transplanted to other parts of Maluku.
The major part of the century-long battle for control over the spice trade was fought out on the Central Moluccan islands, where this power struggle between European nations claimed many lives - especially among civilians. On Ambon alone, the ruins of more than forty fortresses testify to this relentless struggle for power. 
The money that - according to a colonial adage - literally grew here on trees, soon brought discord and corruptness to the new rulers, who found it increasingly difficult to counter the resistance that was flaring up on Ternate and the islands around Ambon. 
By the close of the 18th century, however, coffee, tea and cocoa had succeeded in outranking spices in importance in world trade. The interest in the Spice Islands more or less died out, and the Moluccas went into a kind of economic hibernation that lasted until the second world war.

The name of the island Ambon is believed to come from the word apon, meaning "plantation'. Indeed, Ambon was one of the first Moluccan islands to be occupied by the Portuguese and used as a plantation. The beginnings of the city of Ambon can also be traced back to the Portuguese, who established the fort of Kota Laha on this spot in 1577. The Dutch, who eventually supplanted the Portuguese as a mercantile power, renamed it Fort Victoria. Dominating the waterfront, the large, forbidding walls of this fort, clearly show to what ends the Europeans went to defend this island in the 16th century.
Ambon City, enjoys the status of an autonomous provincial capital. The appeal of this city lies principally in its lovely setting. From the hill in the suburb of Karang Panjang where the memorial to Martha Christina Tiahahu stands, one has a spectacular panoramic view of Ambon Bay and the illuminated city, which is especially striking at dusk.
Martha Christina was a freedom fighter who fought alongside her father against the Dutch colonial regime and died while being transported to Java with a shipload of prisoners. 
Another monument commemorated to the Moluccan people's struggle for freedom is that of Thomas Matulessy, also known as Captain Pattimura. On March 5, 1817, he and his followers took Fort Duurstede on the little island of Saparua, east of Ambon. Betrayed by one of the local rajahs, he was later caught in an ambush and taken prisoner. Before he died, he said to his Dutch executioners, 'I wish you all a pleasant stay'. 

SPICES: The stuff of which dreams were once made.

The Europeans searched many years in vain before finally finding the legendary Spice Islands in the late l5th century. Before that, their aromatic treasure, which was worth its weight in gold in l5th and 16th century Europe, was only obtainable through trade with Arab coasters.
Many European rulers dreamed of possessing these islands and the power and wealth that would come with them.

The commotion that surrounded these once-coveted islands has long since died down. Today, however, the cengkeh (clove), which was originally endemic to the North Moluccas, has achieved new significance due to the popularity of kretek cigarettes, as well as to its use in pharmaceutics. Kretek is very recognizable because of its special, strong smell. The smell you already find when you leave your airplane in Indonesia. A lot of people call this the nice Indonesian smell, without knowing it is because of cigarettes and cengeh.

Clove trees require very little care - keeping the area around the tree free of weeds promotes growth and simplifies the bi-annual process of gathering the harvest of fallen buds. Cloves, which are harvested late, are marketed as lower-quality, less-aromatic pulong. It takes eight to ten years before a clove sapling blossoms for the first time. A mature tree yields approximately five to six kilograms of buds/11-13 lbs. On Ambon and Ternate, model boats, houses and other constructions are built entirely out of cloves; this craft dates back to the last century. The tourist with a toothache will be glad to know that sucking on a few whole cloves brings relief. Dentists, too, are aware of the pain-killing properties of clove oil.

The nutmeg (pala) tree, originally native to the Banda islands, is also very easy to grow. Five years after being planted, the young tree bears fruit for the first time, but not until twenty years later does it reach its normal level of production. Then, it will continue bearing fruit for up to eighty years. The pala nuts, whose green peach-like shells are also used, can be harvested all year round. It is the pit of this fruit that is the actual nutmeg; its fibrous covering is mace. The white color of whole nutmeg comes from a calcium solution that was first used during colonial times to render them unfit for use as seed. Only later was it discovered that this calcium layer did not impede germination, but rather, that it kept the nutmeg fresher longer. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the price of nutmeg was much higher in England than it was on the European continent. Ladies wore them as fragrance in gold or silver lockets around their necks; gentlemen spiced their grogs with nutmeg which they carried around with them in a small box complete with a grater.

PELA or "United We Stand"

Pela, which actually means "brother', is a form of adat or common law which dates back to the l5th century. It is still very much alive on the Moluccas today and has even been kept up by the Moluccans living in Dutch exile. 
Pela signifies a form of alliance between two or more villages. In the l5th and 16th centuries, as a result of the infiltration of Christianity and Islam into Moluccan society, a great deal of mistrust and enmity arose between individual villages. 
In order to bring peaceful co-existence back to the adherents of the two religions, the pela confederations were formed. Genuine pelas follow a strict code of laws and principles which endows them with the necessary strength to win the daily battle for survival. 
One law, for example, bans marriages between members of the same confederation - such a union is looked upon as incestuous. The rights and responsibilities of pela members are precisely laid down: the pela oath covers wartime support as well as mutual assistance in house-building, planting and harvesting. Earlier, the chiefs often sealed the vow by entering into a form of blood brotherhood with one another.
The many forms of pela, regardless of how strict they are, place no obstacles in the way of religious affiliation. 
Alliances exist between Christian and Moslem villages whose inhabitants even assist each other in the building of their churches and mosques. 
In the last three decades, however, the pela movement has lost some of its vitality. The cult of the individual, which is embraced by many young Moluccans today, and the search for employment, which sends many young people to other part of the republic, are the causes of a drastic change in attitudes. 
The Moluccan exiles in the Netherlands, however, are as loyal as ever to their pela system, which provides them with the warmth and support of a close-knit community. The financial burden of weddings and funerals as well as the economic obligations of the community are all borne by the pela. 
While the pela still exists in the Netherlands, since January 1999 the pela has less meaning in Maluku. Villages that use to form a pela (working together in good and bad times) now fight each other, often because of religious backgrounds. The question is after the trouble, will the pela ever return to Maluku.

N.B.: * I found this document on the internet but the website is gone now. If you know the author I would be pleased to give him / her credit.

Ambon (236 bytes)maps of Maluku, Ambon, Seram, Kei, Halmahera (240 bytes)statistics on Maluku, Ambon, Ceram, Tenggah, Moluccas (260 bytes)Articles on Maluku, Moluccas, Ambon, Christian, Muslim (252 bytes)History of Maluku, Ambon, Seram, Ternate, Tidore, Moluccasphotos of Ambon, Kei, Maluku, Moluccas (247 bytes)links fo Maluku, Moluccas, Ambon, Seram, Indonesia (237 bytes)

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