Of Nutmeg and Forts: Indonesian Pride in the Banda Islands’ Unique Natural and Cultural Landscape

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This paper discusses the natural and cultural uniqueness of the Banda Islands in Indonesia, with a particular focus on the tiny islands' historical role as the sole source of nutmeg. Taking as its point of departure the Indonesian government's 2015 proposal to recognize the Banda Islands as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this article investigates the islands' features and their historical meanings, and explains the entanglement of the islands' tropical geography and Bandanese cultural heritage. Particular focus is given to the way in which the Bandanese people, and later the Dutch colonials, used and exploited the Banda Islands' natural resource of nutmeg, and how the Bandanese culture was shaped and reshaped through this process. The paper maps the transformation of this nature-culture landscape involving natural resources and their cultivation over the centuries; it additionally explores the various Dutch forts that were erected to defend the colonial spice trade and how these structures later became heritage treasures of the Banda Islands in the 21st century. The paper argues that the process through which Banda’s natural uniqueness created Bandanese culture also nearly caused its downfall, and the resurrection of indigenous Bandanese civilization necessitated an inclusive identity that incorporated Dutch colonial fortresses as reminders of the dark era of colonialism. The natural and cultural entanglement of the Bandanese landscape has created a sense of cultural pride.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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