Song from Another Land
In 1621, thousands of Bandanese were cruelly slaughtered by the Dutch under the command of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. The reason was to monopolise the spice trade, specifically nutmeg. It was the first genocide by Europeans of the local population in the East Indies. Some islanders who survived were taken to Batavia (now Jakarta) to become slaves, the rest escaped to neighboring islands in the Moluccas, including Kei Besar. In Banda Eli, on Kei Besar, the descendants from the survivors of the massacre still live to this day. They continue to speak and sing in Turwandan, the indigenous Bandanese language which is no longer spoken at its place of origin.
At the end of 2016, Fatris M F and I visited Banda Eli as part of The Banda Journal field work. We realized after several repeated visits to Banda Islands, we only had very little information about the original Bandanese. The only meaningful work we found was Timo Kaartinen’s book ‘Songs of Travel, Stories of Place: Poetics of Absence in an Eastern Indonesian Society’. The fact they are almost totally excluded and forgotten when people discuss the history of colonization of Banda Islands, and Indonesia to greater extent, just strengthened our desire to give extra miles for the project.
Later, through a friend we were connected to Munawir Borut a son of Banda diaspora who lived in Ambon at that time. Munawir then connected us to his community. So when finally the season was right, we didn’t think twice. It was a long way to go from Jakarta through flights, motorbikes, and boats. But these are the people whose ancestors, with their own blood, contributed to the foundation of the modern international trade, globalised world, and also the birth of a nation called Indonesia. And we wanted to hear their version of history.
This day, May 8 2021, to commemorate the 400th years of the event, we would like to present this short documentary. We hope this movie is not the end, but simply a beginning for further discourse.