Reading Wandan amidst the Ocean (text) of Banda

A note from a Wandanesse on Marjolein Van Pagee’s piece, the Banda Genocide 

people of Banda circa 1540, as depicted in Codex Casanatense

Let me introduce myself, I'm from Banda, Moluccas.
Oh, Banda Neira, the spice islands?
yes and no...
what do you mean?
My village's  name is Banda Eli, 
in the Kei Islands. 
So, not Banda Neira?
(our origin is) Banda, but in Kei. 
what does that even mean?

Every time a Wandanesse steeps forward up and introduces himself/herself as the native of Banda Islands, this conversation often ensues. Questions, even a frown on the forehead seemed to have become a common response when the word “Wandan” was compared with the word of Banda. The reason is simple, the general public doesn't familiar with the word “Wandan”. The public doesn't have the knowledge to understand the underlying reasons we called ourselves the Wandanesse, orang Banda asli. Some may not understand that Banda is Wandan in our heart. 

Introducing one’s identity as a Wandanesse is, therefore, never an easy task. The war on Nutmeg in the early 17th century have obscured Wandan and Wandanesse from the mainstream history of Banda. The VOC's barbaric action had systematically robbed the Wandanesse of their spatial identity as the original residents of Banda. Thousands of Wandanesse were killed, exiled, robbed from their living space, displaced and scattered across the archipelago. The genocide committed by the VOC had forced Banda into an empty space, a limbo from which the Wandanesse and their narrative vanished into the insignificance. As the result, every time an introductory session touches upon the topic of one's origin, a Wandanesse has to explain himself/herself at greater length than one should normally do. 

Wandanesse must gather knowledge on the tangled web of history, geopolitics, and colonial greed to explain why our ancestors were expelled from Banda. We must grapple with torn collective memories whenever a question regarding migration to the Kei Islands ensued. 

The long, episodic migration under constant threats of VOC has fragmented Wandanesse memory, history, and identity into pieces. Our story intertwines with the narratives of the inhabitants of Gorom, Geser, Kur, Tayando, all small island perched on the ridge of Banda Arch. Retracing our journeys through those complex web of memories if often emotionally overwhelming. 

That's why I have been hesitant to introduce myself as a Wandanesse. In the past, I generally didn't argue when friends or colleagues introduced me in a very generic terms as a Moluccan, a Keinesse or a Bandanesse. I rarely objected. This, after all, wasn't entirely wrong although it wasn't entirely  right either. 

Today, I promise myself to speak loudly  about my identity and origin. I will no longer hesitate to speak about Wandan. From now on, I shall introduce myself as a Wandanesse. Marjolein's book, the Banda Genocide, has reshaped my awareness. She brought me back to the shore of Neira where I rediscovered Wandan in the ocean texts of Banda.

Declaring oneself as a Wandanesse is certainly not a matter of semantic. Introducing Wandan in the conversation means recognizing the native Banda Islands, who embarked on a "hijrah" to various places throughout the archipelago, especially the Kei islands. Speaking of Wandan is speaking of resilience, demonstrating that we remain intact, undefeated, unbroken. This is, indeed, an act of resistance. 

*  *  *

Recognizing Wandan and the Wandanesse narrative are some of the key themes of Marjolein’s Banda. In the introduction of her Bahasa Indonesia's edition, Marjolein argues that the ignorance to Wandanesse's narrative has produced a narrow-sighted interpretation of history. The classic and contemporary reading on Banda, she said, have robbed the Wandanesse from their existence and made the history be read only from the eye of the Colonialist. 

In her book, Marjolein, launches a strong critique on European biased and colonialist writing regarding Banda. “The colonial historical sources contain lies” she said. Hence, “there will be no breakthrough if we allow these lies to continue”. 

However confrontational it may sound, Marjolein’s call is not to completely disregard colonial sources. Instead, she invites readers to critically examine colonial-based historical accounts, recognizing their subjective nature. She encourages her readers to question the motives behind colonial narratives. Marjolein urges us to deconstruct the historical perspective built upon Europe’s biased view of the East. She, without hesitation, explains how racial prejudice and narrow theological perspective fostered hatred and gave birth to atrocities toward everything which considered not (fully) Europe or seen to be in contradiction with the Europe.

To illustrate this, Marjolein reveals how Jan Pietersoon Coen, the notorious Governor General of VOC, played the racial card and placated certain label toward the Wandanesse. She reveals how Coen portrayal  of the Wandanesse as the deceitful-uncivilized Moor may serve as the pretext to justify his final-solution-like atrocities, to launch a collective punishment toward the Wandanesse. Marjoleine argues that remnant of these prejudices persists in current colonial-based historical account. 

" In the Dutch archives, the Bandanese are referred to as Moors, the infidel, the unfaithful who cannot be trusted or expected of goodness. The Bandanese are accused of cheating by tampering the scales and offering mouldy nutmeg….

In principle they (ed.VOC) just don't want to pay more than their competitors.

..... However, during the first visit in 1599, it soon became clear that the Bandanese were experienced traders and had a unique trading position ".

Beyond exposing various European prejudices in mainstream historical account of Banda, Marjolein also contributed to building a more inclusive historical discourse. The Banda Genocide has presented history not only as series of chronology, dates, and events, but also a story about human, a group of people, no matter how disfranchised their collective memory. In the stream of history that predominantly revolves around his and her stories, Marjolein's book has redirected the current toward Wandanesse. She has helped us to launch our own narrative, enable us to (re)write our collective story, the story of Wandan. 

Certainly, Marjolein is not the first foreign writer that acknowledges the existence of the Wandanesse. Timo Kartinen, a Finnish professor of anthropology, has also written extensively about how Wandanesse maintains their culture and collective memory of Banda through songs and poetry (onotani) for hundreds of years, in the periphery of Kei. 

One can even traced the colonial records about Wandanesse in Kei to the mid-17th century. In 1646, for example, an expedition led by Adrian Dortsman had recorded the settlement of the Wandan diaspora in the negeri of Eli, Elat and the edge of the negeri Haar. Two centuries later, Van Hoevell (1890) and Alfred Russel Wallace also noted the existence of the Wandanesse in Kei. In his travelogue, Malay Archipelago (1869), Wallace even describes the differences in characteristics, culture and religion between the Wandanesse and the native Kei residents. 

Even though she is not the pioneer, Marjolein’s writing is more transformative. It has the power to catalyze change. The main difference between Marjolein and other writers is that Marjolein composed her script with a complete critical awareness. She firmly believes that the Wandanesse should paint the historical discourse on Banda, hence she refuses to stop at merely acknowledging the existence of the Wandanesse. 

Marjolein's determination to provide a wider space for the victim's narrative certainly needs to be welcomed by all Wandanesse. Her courage to dismantle mainstream narratives that are insensitive to people's story needs to be utilized as a momentum to reconstruct our collective memory. It is time for the Wandanesse, as well as other ethnic groups in Moluccas and the archipelago, to talk more bluntly about our history and identity. We must stop treating the collective memory of our own as merely a myth, imagination of an over proud tribe, or the tragedy of the defeated. We need to welcome our oral traditions as a historical source from which examination and analysis can be conducted. 

Wandanesse and other communities across the archipelago may borrow the notion of meta-history to incorporate their collective memory into the mainstream discourse. In the study of anthropology, the meta-history concept has been used as a tool to understand the context and to reconcile the gap between a community’s recollection of events and historical documents. Timo Kartinen, in his study about Wandanesse, had successfully employed this notion. He managed to develop a more coherent narrative of Wandanesse migration and resilience in Kei by constantly examining the Wandanesse collective memories and the colonial documents. 

Marjolein's book the Banda Genocide has given a new hope to redirect discourse on Banda. It has provided a momentum to produce a more critical and inclusive narrative of this archipelago history, one which does not overlook the Wandanesse identity and their narrative. 

But, first, one should dare to embrace his own story. 

So, to restart, let me reintroduce my identity.
My name is Burhanudin Borut. 
My ancestors came from the group of islands you've known as Banda, 
the origins of nutmeg, the mystica fragrans. 
We call that cluster of land and water as the Wandan. 
No, I'm not merely from Banda, 
I am a Wandanesse, 
I am Wandansio!

1 komentar:

  1. My Grandfather was the Pablo Escobar of Banda....with his opium Great roots

    come from