Archipelago – Book Talk at the SMSA

Ian Burnet – Archipelago

Mitchell Theatre, SMSA Sydney, 280 Pitt Street

Tuesday 8 September 2015, 12:30 – 1:30

ian-burnet-archipelago

Ian Burnet explores the most culturally diverse nation on earth, Indonesia, which comprises as many as 17,000 islands.

Travelling by bus, plane, train,ferry, boat, car and motorcycle from Java to Timor, he hops from island to island across the Indonesian archipelago, following the smoking volcanoes that form its spine.

Burnet describes how the early Malay people came to these islands and how Indonesia’s extraordinary mixture of races, religions. languages and cultures developed through the spice trade with the Indians, Chinese and Arabs, then with the Europeans, particularly the early Portuguese traders.

With Burnet’s love of adventure and travel, and his knowledge of history, this talk is guaranteed to delight.

Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia

Archipelago – A Journey Across Indon

Book Review by Dr. Ron Witten for Indonesia Today

This beautifully illustrated and informative book takes the reader on a journey both through the landscape of Indonesia and also back through Indonesia’s past. It weaves a spellbinding experience that will take many of us through memories of past trips we have taken and will also entice us to explore parts of Indonesia where we have not yet ventured.
Ian Burnet, a geologist by trade, first came to Indonesia to work in 1968 and has maintained a life-long association with the country. The book chronicles his recent fulfilment of a life-long ambition to cross the archipelago and to tell its (hi)story. His long-term interest in eastern Indonesia resulted in his 2011 book, Spice Islands, and is the background to the boat trips he organises to Indonesia’s eastern islands (www.ianburnetbooks.com ).
It was of course the spices found in Indonesia’s eastern islands that were the magnet that for over a thousand years drew the world’s attention to the archipelago. Spices, were more valuable by weight than silver or gold, and brought Indian, Chinese, and later Portuguese, English and Dutch traders to seek their fortune through pillage and trade. In so doing they brought to Indonesia the world’s cultures and religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity) to Indonesia where they transformed Indonesia into its current cultural and religious mosaic.
This is the tale that Ian skilfully tells. He begins his journey in the Malacca Strait, that important waterway that linked India to China . He then travels across Java where the Indianized historical feudal kingdom’s arose and created the wonderful temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, only later to succumb to Islamic trade and then European colonisation. He then crosses to Bali where Hinduism held out against Islam before eventually also being colonised by the Dutch.
His trip then takes him through Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara islands with the fabulous komodo lizards and neglected cultural enclaves, the home of fabulous woven ikat. His journey ends in East Timor which had a similar history to Indonesia in terms of long European colonisation that was only brought to an end by revolutionary struggle, a story he relates in compassionate detail.
His journey is told through personal anecdotes that link directly to historical observations and insight, accompanied on virtually every page by often stunning photos taken by him en route.
This is a book that will delight, entice and inform both newcomers to Indonesia and old hands alike.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greatest Monument in the World – Borobodur

View of Borobodur, Antoine Payen, 1835

View of Borobodur, Antoine Payen, 1835

It was Sir Stamford Raffles who receives credit for ‘rediscovering’ Borobodur during the period of British rule in Java from 1811-1816 and information about this monumental work of art came as a great surprise to the outside world. After being cleared of the jungle that had hidden its secrets for a centuries, Raffles writes in his book ‘The History of Java’ of his experience when first viewing the Borobodur:

No description in writing can convey the amount of work that has gone into this immense monument and the detail of its story carved in stone. Its grandeur is too vast and overwhelming, and it compares to no other monument in the world … The amount of human labour and skill expended on the Great Pyramids of Egypt sinks into insignificance when compared to that required to complete this sculptured hill temple in the interior of Java.

I agree that Borobodur is the greatest monument in the world and I am astounded that an internet search will list the pyramids amongst the top ten historic monuments and yet not include Borobodur. There is even a recent television documentary entitled ‘Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World’, that does not include the Borobodur Monument.

The Borobodur Monument

The Borobodur Monument

I hope to reach some level of spiritual enlightenment by joining a dozen other dedicated pilgrims at 5am to experience the sunrise from the top of Borobodur. The night is black and silent as we enter the great monument and the moonlight casts mystical shadows around the temple. Protecting us from these shadows our torches light the way as we climb directly up the stairs that lead to the top of the monument. I stop to rest at one of the carved gateways that lead from one level to the next and my torch reveals above the gateway, the fearsome features of a Kala Head. In Javanese mythology Batara Kala is the god of death or destruction and I remember this warning as I climb to the upper terraces.

Knowing that the sun has risen over Borobodur for more than a thousand years is awe-inspiring. I assume the same position as the 72 Buddha’s on the uppermost terraces, legs crossed, hands posed, waiting in silent contemplation for the dawning of the new day. Slowly, very slowly, the black of the night is replaced by a deep blue light. I have never experienced this light before and it seems to last for a long time before slowly changing to a sky blue and then an early morning grey daylight. Soon the red disc of the sun appears revealing the blue profiles of the surrounding volcanoes, the blue grey of the distant hills, the dark green of the forests high on the hillsides, the bright green of the terraced rice fields, and the white morning mist that fills the lowest parts of the valleys.

The first light of dawn over Borobodur

The first light of dawn over Borobodur

An excerpt from Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia to be published September 1.

rosenberg_archipelago_coverimage2

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago nation comprising as many as 17,000 islands spread over the same distance as Los Angeles to New York, or Perth to Sydney. Indonesia is also the most culturally diverse nation on the planet and its national motto had to be ‘Unity in Diversity’ as these islands are an extraordinary mixture of races, religions, languages and cultures.
Ian Burnet sets out on a journey across the archipelago to discover this rich cultural diversity. He describes how the early Malay people came to these islands and the influence of the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. He discovers the heritage of the Indians, Chinese and Arabs who came here to trade in spices and sandalwood, he follows the rise of Islam and the traces of the first Europeans to enter Asia – particularly the early Portuguese traders and the priests who brought Christianity to these lands.
Travelling by bus, plane, train, ferry, boat, car and motorcycle from Java to Timor, he hops from island to island across the Indonesian archipelago, following the smoking volcanoes that form its spine.
Ian Burnet combines his love of adventure and travel with his knowledge of history to take us on a personal journey through geographic space and historical time, which will delight all armchair travellers.

Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia

Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Jakarta – Bandung Railway

I have always considered the Jakarta – Bandung railway to be one of the great railway journeys of the world. The line follows the northern coastal plains until turning south near Cikampek when our train slows to a crawl as we grind our way up the first hill of the more than 700 metre climb to the city of Bandung. The railway crosses numerous viaducts and bridges as it winds its way upward through the rich cultivated lands of West Java. Continuously fertilized by ash from numerous volcanic eruptions this is some of the richest arable land in the world and these terraced rice fields produce three rice crops a year, a productivity which is unheard of in other parts of the world.

From the comfort of my seat I watch a ‘documentary’ of life on Java unfold. There are vast vistas of terraced rice fields, backed by distant lakes and rugged limestone mountains jutting skyward. The harvest has been completed and most of the rice fields are flooded with water in preparation for the next planting. Before me is a panorama of tiny terraced lakes separated by dark ridges of mud, each lake a mirror reflecting the sky as the rice terraces descend into the valley below. Peasants, men and women, clad in colourful batik sarongs and the conical straw hats typical of South East Asia work the fields, re-planting the bright green seedlings from their patch in the corner of the rice field into long wavering rows. Modern hand held tractors can be seen ploughing some of the fields. Have the water buffalo formerly used to plough the fields already been retired and turned into bifstek?

West Java Panorama

West Java Panorama

As we get higher into the mountains the rice fields are now confined to the floors of narrow valleys. Here the rice terraces appear to have been sculpted out of the earth, not by peasant farmers, but by an environmental artist trying to demonstrate on a grand scale the harmony of man and nature. Hillside slopes unsuitable for rice terraces have been cleared to grow cassava or bananas, and the land in between grows every conceivable type of fruit or vegetable found in this ‘Garden of Eden’. Around the villages, huge groves of bamboo bend and rustle in the wind, providing shelter, shade and a ready building material for the village houses still framed out of bamboo and with split bamboo matting for their walls.

West Java rice terraces

West Java rice terraces

When first opened in 1906 this track was an engineering masterpiece crossing 300 viaducts and bridges, including a 300 metre long bridge spanning a mountain ravine and a trestle bridge standing 100 meters above the Cisomang River. This trestle bridge now stands next to the new arched bridge that has been built to replace it, but looking down from the train into the white water below is still an awesome experience. At times the railway clings to a narrow track cut out of a rocky cliff and looking ahead I can see the front of the train curving around the next valley. We cross a deep ravine and look down to the torrent below, then we are plunged into the darkness of a 1000 metre long tunnel cut through a mountain.
The track is single narrow gauge which is doubled in places for trains to pass and we stop at least once for an oncoming train. On another occasion I can see an oncoming train across the valley and anxiously wait for our train to pull over and stop. This doesn’t happen and I am seriously afraid of becoming part of tomorrow’s headlines, but to my relief the oncoming train flashes past, and thankfully we were already on a double track.

The Cisomang Trestle Bridge from the early 1900's

The Cisomang Trestle Bridge from the early 1900’s

The above is an excerpt from Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia to be published September 1.

rosenberg_archipelago_coverimage2

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago nation comprising as many as 17,000 islands spread over the same distance as Los Angeles to New York, or Perth to Sydney. Indonesia is also the most culturally diverse nation on the planet and its national motto had to be ‘Unity in Diversity’ as these islands are an extraordinary mixture of races, religions, languages and cultures.
Ian Burnet sets out on a journey across the archipelago to discover this rich cultural diversity. He describes how the early Malay people came to these islands and the influence of the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. He discovers the heritage of the Indians, Chinese and Arabs who came here to trade in spices and sandalwood, he follows the rise of Islam and the traces of the first Europeans to enter Asia – particularly the early Portuguese traders and the priests who brought Christianity to these lands.
Travelling by bus, plane, train, ferry, boat, car and motorcycle from Java to Timor, he hops from island to island across the Indonesian archipelago, following the smoking volcanoes that form its spine.
Ian Burnet combines his love of adventure and travel with his knowledge of history to take us on a personal journey through geographic space and historical time, which will delight all armchair travelers.

Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia

Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ombak Putih – A traditional yet modern Bugis Pinisi

The Ombak Putih

The Ombak Putih

The Bugis Pinisi is in part a copy of a western schooner of the mid-nineteenth century and the word pinisi is thought to have come from the english word pinnace. They are recognized by their tall ketch-rig of seven sails including two tops sails and three jibs, with a bipod or tripod mast and fixed gaffs. Most have a long raking bow and bowsprit. The other characteristic is the two lateral rudders which are supported on heavy beams which run right through the stern.

I first saw the Ombak Putih when anchored off Sumbawa in another vessel. When the Ombak Putih with her sleek white hull and large blue sails came into view and anchored nearby -it was ‘love at first sight’.

OmbakPutih_Deck-plan-2

The Ombak Putih is a mix of traditional and modern ‘pinisi’ design. Her hull and rigging are traditional, while the deckhouse and interior are custom-designed to fulfil the need for a spacious, open and comfortable vessel. An important design principle was the need for a boat, which would provide ample room for both 24 guests plus crew, with each cabin air conditioned and with an ensuite bathroom. The design therefore incorporated a large deckhouse that was low enough to maintain the original sail plan, while also providing sufficient sleeping and living quarters for the crew and a spacious lounge and kitchen for the guests. Behind the bridge on top of the deckhouse, the design incorporated a large sundeck with a canopy to provide shade.

The spacious lounge area

The spacious lounge area

The Ombak Putih was built alongside a muddy river in Batulicin, Kalimantan. On a deserted piece of land, the keel was laid on 11 May 1996. Finding suitable timber for the keel was not easy as ideally it should consist of only one piece. The Ombak Putih’s keel measures 23m by 40cm by 40cm.

Construction then started with the adding of the bow and the stern pieces of the keel. The position and length of the keel, stern and stem will always determine the shape of the hull. The shipbuilders’ technique was to place the first skin planks from the keel upwards. No moulds were erected before the skin planking reached at least 1.5m above the keel.The Buginese boatbuilders are renowned for their skills but it’s still amazing that this huge structure (36m in length, with a beam of 10m and a draft of 4.5m) was made without any drawings, fully relying on the craftsmanship of its builders. A Dutch naval architect was hired to design the interior and the deckhouse and to recalculate all of the dimensions.

On 27 May 1997, the Ombak Putih was launched. Buginese tradition demands that a goat is ritually sacrificed and its blood scattered over various important parts of the ship. In June, the owners received the official ownership documentation, and the crew then navigated the boat to Surabaya where suppliers were already waiting to install air-conditioners, electrical cables and bathroom fittings etc.

In Tanjung Perak, the old canal-type harbour of Surabaya, the boat finally began to look like a real sailing vessel. The top masts were positioned with the help of a huge crane, and the hull was painted white, initially with just two coats of paint although it would take ten coats before the boat really looked white. On 9 August 1997, the beautiful Ombak Putih triumphantly set off on her maiden voyage to Bali.

Ombak Puith with sails 2

The Ombak Putih sails with Ian Burnet on its ‘East Indies Spice Exploration’ voyage around the Eastern Indonesian Archipelago from September 26 to October 7, departing from Maumere in Flores. For more information and bookings contact Sea Trek Sailing Adventures at http://www.seatrekbali.com

Maumere to Ambon

Maumere to Ambon

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Treasure Ships – Art in the Age of Spices – Part 1

This exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia includes 300 outstanding and rarely-seen works of ceramics, decorative arts, furniture, metalware, paintings, prints, and textiles from public and private collections around the world.
The selected works of art reveal how the international trade in spices and other exotic commodities inspired dialogue between Asian and European artisits, centuries-old conversations whose heritage is the aesthetic globalism we know today.

IMG_0998 - Copy

The map by Petrus Plancius is a masterpiece of cartographic art, the sharpness of the image shows that it was one of the first maps to be engraved on copper plate. On the base of the map are the spices, the nutmeg and cloves that the Portuguese, Dutch and English were seeking and the map served as a prospectus for the raising of funds for the first Dutch expedition to the East Indies in 1595 by ‘The Company for Far Distant Lands’ which was a forerunner to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

IMG_0995 - Copy

After Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 the Portuguese came to the East ‘In search of Christian and Spices’. Their superior ships and weapons allowed them to establish trading bases in Goa, Malacca, Ternate, Banda, Macao and Nagasaki and extend their trading network across Asia.They were followed almost hundred years later by the Dutch and the English in 1595 and 1601 respectively.

IMG_0936

At the entrance to the exhibit are examples of the weapons and armour that the Europeans used to establish their trading bases across the Eastern Seas. A Portuguese helmet and a Dutch cannon are on display

IMG_1067

This is a kris made for a Sultan, its blade is inlaid with gold and its sheath decorated with diamonds and semi-precious stones and although purely decorative it represents the weapons used by the islanders to fight the Portuguese and the Dutch intruders.

IMG_0944 - Copy

The Portuguese captured the island of Goa on the west coast of India and used it as the base for their Estado do India and their expanding trade routes across the East Indies and the Orient. This map shows the development of the city Goa in 1699.

06_Plan of the City of Goa,1750

Francisco de Almeida became the first Governor of Goa and the Estado da India

IMG_0940

This large wooden chest with a VOC insignia on its front was probably used by VOC personnel to bring their possessions by ship to the East Indies or to be filled with silver dollars to purchase spices and other trade items in the archipelago.

IMG_1066 - Copy

Spanish silver dollars were the common trade currency but these are German silver thaler coins dated 1592 to 1624 and were recovered from the wreck of the Batavia which sank in 1629 off the coast of Western Australia.

IMG_1105

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Treasure Ships – Art in the Age of Spices – Part 2

This exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia is the first exhibition in Australia to present the complex artisitic and cultural interactions between the East and the West from the 16th to the 19th centuries – a period known as the ‘Age of Spices’.

IMG_0998 - Copy

A feature of the exhibition is the diverse range of Christian artwork created at ports such as Goa and Nagasaki and on loan from Portugal and India. Especially this large golden salver used in religious ceremonies and illustrating the Manueline taste of the period. When filled with water the central part represented an island surrounded by the sea.

IMG_1017 - Copy

It is decorated with animals, foliage and a maritime scene of a caravel in stormy seas.

IMG_1025

Speaking of stormy seas the Jesuit priest Saint Francis Xavier sailed to Goa, then Malacca and then the Spice Islands to bring the Christian message to the Eastern Seas. A frightful storm arose off Ambon and the saint immersed his cross in the water to calm the seas but the cross was lost in the water. It is believed that later when Saint Francis was walking on the beach a crab emerged from the sea holding the cross in its claws and the cross was later enshrined in this silver reliquary.

IMG_0947 - Copy

The Portuguese, Dutch and English traders soon learned of the popularity of Indian textiles throughout the archipelago and that textiles could replace silver as a trading currency. Here is a baju or jacket in the style of Indian chintz and a sembagi or waist wrap garment made in India and both found in Indonesia.

IMG_0968

Court garments like this voluminous dodot waist wrap were popular with the aristocracy throughout Indonesia and have often been preserved as heirloom items.

IMG_0979 - Copy

The most valued Indian cloth was the patolu or double ikat cloth from Gujarat such as this one displaying a procession of elephants with their royal passengers and foot-bearers found in Indonesia.

Elephant patula

Here is the Rice Godess Dewi Sri and her consort Mas Sadono seated in front of a Gujurati patolu with a ‘flowering basket’ design. Mas Sadono is also wearing an Indian silk patolu cloth as a waistwrap under his belt.

IMG_1120 - Copy

The exhibition will be at the Art Gallery of South Australia until the end of August when it will move to the Art Gallery of Western Australia until the end of January.

IMG_0995 - Copy

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terra Australis 1606

Terra Australis 1606: The Voyages of the Duyfken & the San Pedrico
Tuesday, 16 June 2015, 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Venue: SMSA Mitchell Theatre
280 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Hendrik Hondius 1641 State Library of NSW

Hendrik Hondius 1641
State Library of NSW

Maritime historian Ian Burnet discusses the background of these significant voyages, and their impact on subsequent events. Although Torres’ charts of his crossing were lost, Ian will review the available maps showing their voyages and reveal Australia’s first appearance on a subsequent world map.

The year 1606 saw Europeans sighting Australia twice.

The voyage of the Duyfken, captained by William Janszoon, is as important to Australian history as the Santa Maria is to Americans, producing the first chart of the Australian coastline. Reaching the west coast of Cape York, in northern Queensland, the crew of the Duyfken were the first Europeans to set foot on the continent. Their meeting with the local people was the first documented contact between the Indigenous Australians and Europeans.

Just months later, a Spanish expedition was looking for the reputed Terra Australis, the Great Southern Land of legend. After an unsuccessful search, the expedition split and second-in-command Luis de Torres, sailed west in his own ship, the San Pedrico, and a 20 foot launch. He eventually navigated the Torres Strait while contending with fierce storms and reached the Cape York Peninsula.

FREE & OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The replica Duyfken at Banda

The replica Duyfken at Banda

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment