The Manhattan Transfer and the Rhunhattan Tearoom

This year on 31 July 2017 we will record the 350 year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Breda in 1667 which ended the second Anglo-Dutch war. In one of the clauses in this document the Dutch exchanged the island of Manhattan for the nutmeg growing island of Rhun in what was to become the Dutch East Indies and therefore gained a complete monopoly over the nutmeg trade.


The nutmeg fruit showing the nut with its bright red outer covering of mace (Ian Burnet)

This was not just the real estate deal of the century but probably of the millenium. Who would have believed that Manhattan would become the ‘capital of the world’ and the valuable nutmeg island of Rhun would sink into obscurity?

Treaty of Breda

The last page of the Treaty of Breda, 1667 (Dutch Nationaal Archief)


The United Dutch East India Company (VOC) had captured the fort on the main Banda island from the Portuguese in 1605, which meant that when English East India Company ships arrived, they could only trade for nutmegs on the outer islands of Run and Ai.
Nathaniel Courthope anchored the English East India Company vessels Swan and Defense off the tiny island of Rhun in 1616 and because of the islanders antipathy to the Dutch, he was able to get them to sign their allegiance to King James I of England, in a document similar to the one posted below. This was the very first English colony and King James I was able to declare himself, ‘King of England, Scotland and Puloo Run’.

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The document prepared by King James I allowing Asian potentates to submit to his rule. 1619      (British Library)

Ombak Putih

             The Ombak Putih anchored where the Swan and the Defence would have anchored off the island of Rhun in 1616.  (Ian Burnet)

On the other side of the world Dutch colonists acquired rights to the island of Manhattan in 1625 in exchange for sixty guilders of trade goods and named it Nieuw Amsterdam. In 1664 the English captured Nieuw Amsterdam and renamed it New York, leading to the exchange of these two islands under the Treaty of Breda in 1667.

In September 2015 the conceptual artist Beatrice Glow created what she described as the Rhunhattan Tearoom in the Sunroom Project Space, of the Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center, Bronx, New York. The exhibition consisted of acrylic and decal collage on ceramics, ink on paper and terracotta infused with the scents of colonial commerce such as cloves and nutmeg.

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The Rhunhatten Tearoom in the Sunroom Project Space, New York. (Beatrice Glow)

Rhun 15

Nutmeg decorated ceramic ware and maps of the Nutmeg Islands (Beatrice Glow)

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Detail of the ceramic ware and a map of the island of Rhun (Beatrice Glow)



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Detail of the ceramic ware and Fort Hollandia (Beatrice Glow)

During her residency at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University , Beatrice Glow investigated the social history of plants via spice routes and botanical expeditions, focusing on the historical relationship between two islands on opposite sites of the world: Mannahatta and Rhun. The islands, which were traded by the British and Dutch during the 17th century spice wars, are connected by both a botanical and colonial legacy. For more information on her work please follow this link:

The East Indies Exploration: Culture, Sea and Spice 2017 voyage on the Ombak Putih will reach the islands of Rhun and Banda to explore the spice plantations and the old colonial forts and buildings found there. For details of the voyage please go to:

East Indies Voyage

East Indies Exploration: Culture, Sea and Spice 2017 on the Ombak Putih (Ian Burnet)





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The Forgotten Islands and the ‘Forgotten Nederlanders’

East Indies Voyage

‘The Forgotten Islands’ lie in Indonesian waters to the north and east of Timor on this map. In September our vessel the Ombak Putih will be visiting Kisar Island on our East Indies Exploration 2017 voyage with SeaTrek.

Map Forgotten Islands

Just 10km wide, Kisar is a roughly square-shaped, dry and rocky coral island with a strange topography. It has been tectonically uplifted in stages which has left a terraced coral landscape around its margins. The highest terrace stands about 130-140 metres above sea level. This outer ring of hills is segmented by steep clefts providing access to the interior where the majority of the islanders live. The inland part of the island is hilly, the highest elevation being 240m-high Gunung Taitulu/Daitilu located in the northern half of the island. A number of lagoon-like depressions separate this central region from the outer ring of terraced hills.

Approaching the port of Nama from the west (Hans-Peter Grumpe)

A cliff terrace behind the port of Nama on the west coast (Photo by Hans-Peter Grumpe)

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) first  established a small defensive garrison on the island in 1665 and the mixed-race European-Kisarese community on Kisar today is actually descended from sixteen European soldiers who served on the island during the late 1700’s (Engelenhoven 2016). Under the command of distant Ambon, their presence on Kisar remained purely symbolic and when Dutch interest waned the residual occupants of the garrison remained on the island, marrying local women of both Dutch and Kisar descent.

Remains of Fort Delfshaven

The remains of the VOC Fort Delfshaven


VOC Insignia found on The Forgotten Islands (Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory)

The mixed-race children of the Dutch soldiers would become the first in a long line of Eurasians who would become known as the ‘Mestees of Kisar’. These families tended to intermarry in order to retain much of their Dutch heritage and many of the island’s inhabitants today have surnames that relate back to these early Dutch soldiers such as Bellmin-Belder, Caffin, Coenradi, Joostenz, Lander, Lerrick, Peelman, Ruff, Schilling, van Delsen, and Wouthuysen. Some hold the name Bakker and they are the decendants of the first Christian leader of Kisar named Pakar.

The German physical anthropologist Ernst Rodenwaldt studied this community in detail and published his book Die Mestizen auf Kisar in 1927, which documents the history of these families and remains a valued heritage document for the ‘Mestees of Kisar’.

Kisar Anthropology

Die Mestizen auf Kisar (Photo – Geert Snoeijer)

In 1918 the famous Dutch artist W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp visited Kisar and produced this drawing of its terrain and showing its large sheep or goat population.

Landscape near Wonreli (W Nieuwenkamp) 1918

In 1838 the British Government of New South Wales established Port Essington on the Cobourg Peninsula in the now Northern Territory. Anxious to develop British trade across the East Indies, the trade representative George Windsor Earl sailed from Port Essington on an exploratory trading voyage to Timor and the South Eastern Islands that very same year.

His first view of the south coast of Kisar on 20 July 1838 was positive: It certainly presented a most picturesque appearance: the summit of every hill was crowned with a village of neat thatched houses, shaded by large trees; each village being surrounded by a wall formed of stones piled on one another to the height of about 8 feet. The steep sides of the hills exhibited numerous herds of buffaloes, goats, and sheep; while between the hills we occasionally had a glimpse of the interior, which appeared to be in a high state of cultivation. The fertile hills were richly planted with rice, sugarcane, yams, sweet potatoes, tobacco, cotton and numerous vegetables, while the chief fruits were mangoes, breadfruit, melons, oranges, lemons and plantains.

George Windsor Earl was here to obtain provisions for the newly established outpost at Port Essington. The Kisarese were keen to trade and within 48 hours the British sailed with 20 bullocks, 120 sheep, 60 pigs, a number of fowls, 3 tons of yams, with fruit, cocoa-nuts, plantains, etc., all of which had been purchased by goods which cost at Sydney less than £50 Sterling. However Port Essington failed to attract settlers and almost ten years later the settlement was deemed unsustainable. Before its closure in 1849, British scientist Thomas Huxley wrote that Port Essington was “most wretched, the climate the most unhealthy, the human beings the most uncomfortable and houses in a condition most decayed and rotten”.


The photographic exhibition held by Geert Snoeijer in Jakarta

As the descendants of Dutch soldiers stationed on the island, the mestizos considered themselves superior to the endemic population and tended to inter-marry. Consequently they retained numerous physical characteristics, such as skin colour, hair type, hair colour, and eye colour, which distinguished them from the native population. In early 2017 a photographic exhibition by Geert Snoeijer was held in Jakarta entitled ‘The Forsaken Children of the Compagnie’.


Carola Joostenz – photo by Geert Snoeijer


Anna Siane Kaipatty-Lerrick – photo by Geert Snoeijer


Cornelis Wouthuysen – Photo by Geert Snoeijer

The ‘Mestees of Kisar’ are proud of their heritage and after Indonesian Independence in 1945, the invitation by the Dutch Government to come to the Netherlands confirmed their Dutch identity. Nevertheless, because they stressed their Indonesian identity, most of them did not want to leave the island.

My thanks to Randall Rutledge who contributed to this blogpost.

David Richardson contributed significant material to this blogpost and has an extensive study of the history and culture of Kisar on the Asian Textiles website:

Geert Snoeijer organised the exhibition of his photographs in Jakarta and more details are on his website:

Details of the East Indies Exploration 2017 voyage can be found on the SeaTrek website






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Alor Island – A traditional village and bronze Moko drums

                                        East Indies Exploration 2017

SeaTrek Sailing Adventures depart from Maumere in Flores on September 22 for a 12 day voyage around the outer islands of the Indonesian archipelago to finish in Ambon on October 3, 2017

East Indies Voyage

A map showing the Ombak Putih and our 12 day voyage from Maumere on Flores along the island chain that leads to the Banda Islands and our final destination at Ambon.

After we visit the whaling village of Lamalera on the island of Lembata, one of the highlights of our voyage will be a visit to the island of Alor and our dawn arrival as we sail up the narrow and beautiful bay towards the town of Kalabahi.

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The island of Alor and Kalabahi Bay

This is a view looking down the beautiful Kalabahi Bay towards the volcano that guards its entrance.

Kalibahi, Alor, April 9, 2007 165

Alor has much cultural diversity as there are eight languages and at least 25 dialects spoken by its different tribes and from the town of Kalabahi we travel across the island to the traditional village of Lembur Barat.

Village Traditional

Greeted by the village elders, we will be able to visit their homes, and be introduced to their traditional culture including dance, bronze moko drums and ikat weaving.

Village Elders

At the centre of the village is a circular platform with a stone altar known as a mesbah on which are displayed some of the heirloom bronze moko drums kept by the village. In this photo the community line up behind the altar in preparation for the dance.

Village Centre

In the lego-lego dance the elders hold each other arm in arm as they begin a dancing circle around the central stone altar. They are then slowly joined by each successive generation of younger and younger people, and each group joining the dancing circle represents the unity and togetherness of the community.


The rythm for the dance is created by the rattle of the bangles on the women’s feet as they stamp their feet in unison.

Village Dancing Feet

The male warriors perform a traditional war dance

Village War Dance

Large bronze drums originally arrived in Indonesia after being manufactured using the ‘lost wax’ method by the Dongson culture of North Vietnam. These drums were manufactured over a period of almost one thousand years from 600 BCE until 300 CE and were traded across South-East Asia. The origins of the Moko drum are less well known but they may have come originally from China and then were manufactured in Java. They are smaller than the Dongson drums, are waisted and obviously could be held and played as an instrument.

They became a very important part of the culture of Alor and have become symbolic of the island where the Moko drums remain an important status symbol. They are particularly important in their ritual value and are still generally required as part of the bridal dowry, though the short supply of moko today means that moko must often be borrowed or mortgaged for this purpose. Here examples of these heirloom drums are displayed on the central stone altar.

Moko Drums

Detail of a Moko drum

Moko Drum


Traditional woven textiles on display in the village

Village Market

Training the next generation of warrior dancers.

Village Child Warrior

Details of the voyage can be found on the SeaTrek website at





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Javanese Gold – The Wonoboyo Hoard

One of the treasures on display in the National Museum in Jakarta is a priceless collection of golden jewellery and ceremonial objects found at Wonoboyo near Yogyakarta in Central Java.

The hoard was discovered as recently as October 1990 on the slopes of Mount Merapi by five farmers while digging a paddy field to lower its surface.  One of their hoes struck a hard object which turned out to be a large Chinese jar of Tang origin filled with ancient objects, many made of gold. Further digging uncovered four similar jars and a bronze box all containing a treasure of gold and silver objects weighing a total of 35 kilograms.

The hoard was discovered only 5 kilometres from the ancient Prambanan Temple Complex in Central Java and is considered to be one of the greatest archeological discoveries found in Indonesia this century.

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Golden Armband decorated by a Kala face

Among the hoard objects is an armband decorated with a kala face for protection. Armbands like these were worn by people of the highest rank, or by the king himself, and can be seen on the stone statue of Shiva Mahadeva in the Shiva Temple of the nearby Prambanan Temple Complex.

The objects demonstrate the mastery of the Javanese goldsmiths. From the design, inscriptions, and quality of the objects found in the Wonoyobo hoard the owner is thought to have been a king or at least a person of the highest rank and the hoard is estimated to date from the reign of King Balitung (899–911). 

0024 Mount Merapi

The eruption of Mount Merapi, by Basuki Abdullah

Based on the presence of a gold begging bowl, the site is thought to have been a Royal Hermitage possibly for a King who had abdicated the throne. The hoard was covered by 3 metres of lava and volcanic ash from nearby Mount Merapi.  This would have occurred after the catylasmic eruption of the volcano around 929 CE, which ended many lives in Central Java and forced the shift of government and culture to East Java.

Merapi from Prambanan

Mount Merapi is still active and can be seen from the Prambanan Temple Complex

The Ramayana bowl is considered to be the most significant object in this discovery because it is the first known bowl decorated in relief with scenes from the Ramayana. The same scenes which line the inside of the balcony balustrade of the Shiva Temple at the Prambanan Temple Complex. The Rama story is depicted on the bowl in panels on each of the four lobes. Each panel shows two scenes which are read from the right to the left in the manner of the clockwise circumambulation of a sacred site.

Ramayana Bowl

The Ramayana Bowl showing the Ramayana story

Many of the works of art are inspired by nature and here is a beautiful necklace comprised of thirty-eight golden mollusc shells. The shells were made by the lost-wax casting technique. Where a clay core is covered with wax which is then shaped into the shell before being covered again in clay.  Liquid gold is the poured into a hole in the top of object and replaces the wax which drains out the bottom.

shell necklace

Golden Mollusc Shell Necklace

Another work inspired by nature is this miniature gold palm leaf bucket which was probably used in temple ceremonies.

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A Golden Palm Leaf Bucket

The handle of this beautiful golden ladle curves upwards and its top is in the form of a palm leaf in bud. An inscription in Old Javanese on its rim indicates the ladle was used as a ceremonial object.

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A Gold Ceremonial Ladle

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Replica Items on display at the Prambanan Museum

This large crescent shaped pendent is covered in decoration. It is too large to have been worn by a person and together with two elephant size golden anklets which are also on display, could have been worn by the royal elephant as the royal procession paraded through the streets.

elephant necklace

Large Golden Pendant – to be worn by the Royal Elephant?

Information and images of the objects are from the book, Indonesian Gold – Treasures from the National Museum, Jakarta and exhibited by the Queensland Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1999.

We will be visiting the National Museum in Jakarta to view this collection and also the Prambanan Temple Complex during our ‘Journey Across Java’ this August 2017. For more details please go to the Heritage Destinations website at:



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Old Batavia – The Harbourmasters Tower

This lithograph from 1844 by C.W.M van de Velde shows Indonesian prahus alongside the landing dock or Aanleg Plaats on the Main Canal at the interior of Sunda Kelapa harbour. A harbour which is still used by the large Bugis prahus of the wooden trading fleet today.

The lithograph shows the Harbourmasters Tower (Uitkijk) on the opposite side of the canal and the beginnings of the  Spice Warehouses or the  Westzijdsche Pakhuizen on the right. Charles William Meredith van de Velde was himself a Dutch naval officer and head of the Dutch Royal Hydrographer’s Office in Batavia.


Image courtesy of the Bartele Gallery, Jakarta

This image painted by J.C.Rappard some fourty years later shows the Kleine Boom or landing stage constructed on the same site, on the left is the corner of the Stadsherberg erected opposite the landing stage, and in the background the Harbourmasters Tower.


Image from the Historical Sites of Jakarta (Adolf Heuken SJ)

This photograph taken from almost the same position shows the present day condition of the Harbourmasters Tower which has been restored as part of Maritime Museum or Museum Bahari, which now occupies the former Spice Warehouses.


The Harbourmasters Tower as it looks today from the same location

On this map of Batavia from 1770, the images would have been drawn from just below the former Kasteel Batavia, on the left hand side of the Main Canal leading up into the city and looking across to the Bastion Culemborg (47), where the Harbourmasters Tower and the Spice Warehouses are located.


Image courtesy of the Bartele Gallery, Jakarta

The following photos shows the Habourmasters Tower from the entrance side near the Maritime Museum  (Museum Bahari).


The view to the Spice Warehouses (Westzijdsche Pakhuizen ) or the Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) from the HarbourMasters Tower.


We will visit this area of old Batavia on the first day of our Journey Across Java-2017 tour. Please follow the link to Heritage Destinations for the details:

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Netherlands Indies -Vintage Travel Posters

Heritage Destinations will be repeating our ‘Journey Across Java’ tour for 15 days from August 18 until September 1, 2017. I thought these vintage Dutch travel posters that follow our journey would be of interest.


We will travel most of the way from Jakarta (Batavia) to Bandung (Bandoeng), to Yogyakarta (Djokjakarta), to Solo (Soerakarta)  to Surabaya (Soerabaja) by train. But there is no reason to take the night train as we want to be able to see the beautiful mountains, terraced rice fields and lakes of Java as we travel the distance from Jakarta to Surabaya.


This poster must have been designed to attract a particular type of traveller – the overweight Dutch colonial male whose hat is too big! After we leave Jakarta our train slowly climbs 800 metres up through the mountains of West Java on our journey to Bandung and we see wonderful views of terraced rice fields and distant mountains.  We also pass 100m above the  Cisomang River, on the modern equivalent of the trestle bridge in the poster.


And this poster is for a more sophisticated traveller – those interested in the art, dance, music and culture of Indonesia.


Humidity recedes, gradually replaced by cool, fresh air as we steadily climb up to the broad plateau containing Bandung. Once described as ‘the Paris of Java’, in Bandung we will stay in the renovated and historic Grand Hotel Preanger with its art-deco architecture and decor.


We journey from Bandung to Yogjakarta by train  and as we roll through the sculptured rice terraces, rich cultivated lands and mountains of West Java, the views from the train demonstrate the beauty of the people, the wonderland of colour and the beautiful smiles that can be seen across Java.


In Central Java we will spend three days exploring Jogjakarta and the highlight of the tour will be our visit to the magnificent Borobodur Monument which is the largest Buddhist sanctuary in the world. A colossal cosmic mountain built from one million blocks of stone the monument took perhaps 10,000 artisans a century to build. After a catyclismic eruption of the nearby Mount Merapi it lay buried for almost 1000 years under layers of volcanic ash and vegetation until its rediscovery in 1814.




On our journey to Solo in Central Java we will visit the massive Prambanan Temple complex which consists of 244 temples and is dominated by three main temples dedicated to the three highest gods of Hinduism – Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Keeper, and Shiva the Destroyer.


After three days exploring Solo, we will travel by train to Trowulan in East Java to visit to the remains of the royal city of the 14th century Majapahit Empire.The ancient capital was surrounded by a high red brick wall with deep pools, palaces, temples and pavilions. The impressive Trowulan Museum helps put the site into perspective before we visit the remnants of the historic city.

We travel on to Surabaya and where we will stay two nights at the renowned Majapahit Hotel (originally the Hotel Oranje). As one of the three great hotels of Asia built by the Sarkie brothers, it is even bigger and more magnificent than its sister hotels – the Raffles in Singapore and the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang.



For those interested in the details of the tour, please go to the Heritage Destinations website below:



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A Journey Across Java – 2017

After  a succesful journey last year, Heritage Destinations are repeating their ‘Journey Across Java’ this year with another small group of interested and interesting people.

150921 Borobudor iStock 1920pxl x 1080pxl hero

Borobodur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world

Beyond Bali, much of Indonesia is unknown to many Australians. But in many respects, Indonesia is Australia’s most important overall relationship.  Yet the historical and cultural differences of our nearest neighbour are vast, possibly among the widest of any pair of adjoining countries.



For the traveller, opportunity knocks, and here is a frequently overlooked destination that begs exploration. Join Heritage Destinations on a 15 day tour across Java from August 18 – September 1, 2016, with Ian Burnet, the author of the recent book Archipelago – A Journey Across Indonesia, as your leader.


Indonesia is the largest archipelago nation in the world. Is extremities are six thousand four hundred kilometres apart, as far as Perth, Western Australia is from Wellington, New Zealand. Almost seventeen thousand islands both seperate and link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and contain a rich human diversity of over three hundred and fifty different ethnic groups. The people are a subtle blend of cultures that have invaded since neolithic times – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Melanesian, Portuguese, Arabian, English and Dutch. Their history is a saga of wave after wave of human migration who either absorbed earlier arrivals, eliminated them or drove them into less favorable regions such as deep forests, high mountains, or remote islands (where they can still be found today).

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The Hindu Temples at Prambanan

Our starting point is the capital Jakarta, centre for government, politics and business – the brain of Indonesia. West, Central and East Java follow including travelling by train to Bandung , Yogyakarta, and Surabaya. From Yogyakarta we will visit the World Heritage listed sites of Buddhist Borobodur and Hindu Prambanan  and we have time to explore the arts, crafts and busy markets in this the cultural heart of Java. Other interesting centres such Solo and the nearby World Heritage Listed ‘Java Man’ site at Sangiran and the centre of the former Majapahit Empire located at Trowulan are included. Our final stay is at the famous Majapahit Hotel in historical Surabaya before the tour conclusion in Denpasar, Bali .

Garden of Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya Java Indonesia. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

The magnificent Majapahit Hotel in Surabaya


WEA Sydney offer interesting and worthwhile travel experiences. It’s a good time to visit some of the lesser known landscapes of one of the world’s most interesting societies.

Consider joining us on a Journey Across Java and travel with a knowledgeable WEA Sydney lecturer you can trust, who shares your values, listens to you and adds value to your journey. Please go to the Heritage Destinations website for details of the Journey:

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