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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Banda Islands

The Banda Islands (Indonesian: Kepulauan Banda in the and ) are a group of ten small volcanic islandsBanda 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 km². 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 divingsnorkeling.

Banda Besar island seen from Fort Belgica.
Banda Besar island seen from Fort Belgica.


There are seven inhabited islands and several that are uninhabited. The inhabited islands are:

The active volcano Gunung Api in the Banda Islands
The active volcano Gunung Api in the Banda Islands

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 650m
  • 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

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.

Gunung Api as seen from Fort Belgica on Banda Neira.Note people at left.
Gunung Api as seen from Fort Belgica on Banda Neira.
Note people at left.

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.

Examples :

  • 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: pané.

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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