Banda Islands : Where The Story Began

By Google Arts & Culture

Nutmeg on Hand (2019-07-18/2019-07-18) by Josh Catti Rahadi (Negeri Rempah Foundation)Indonesia Gastronomy Network

Run in Banda Islands is where the story began

Maluku Islands is an archipelago located in eastern Indonesia. The archipelago comprises of over 1000 islands. The more well known islands for its spices are Ternate, Tidore, and Banda Islands. Run in Banda Islands is where nutmeg grew native and where the story began..

Banda Neira

Seen from Pulau Gunung Api, Banda Api. 

Nutmeg is grown on the island and trade brought the inhabitants great wealth in the pre-modern period. Nutmeg was used widely for preservation. Until the early 17th century, the Banda Islands were ruled by locals called the Orangkaya

Gezicht op Bandaneira vanaf Gunung Api ('Banda Neira v. Goenung Api aus gesehen') (ca. 1875 - ca. 1880) by Dietrich, C. (fotograaf)Rijksmuseum

This is an archive photograph of Banda Neira taken in early 19th Century. You can view the port on the right  and Fort Belgica on top of the hill on the left that was built by the first Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies in 1611.

Trade card:Nutmeg by Forbes Co.The Strong National Museum of Play

The spice that inspires the world

These nutmeg and other spices from the area were known for its anti-microbial feature, food preservation and health benefits since early as 1400 BC.  The presence of this natural resource became critical in setting course of power in the beginning of globalisation.Medieval Europe was obsessed with Indonesian spices as it helped preserve food and add flavors to its cuisine.  

Nutmeg in Half (2019-07-18/2019-07-18) by Josh Catti Rahadi (Negeri Rempah Foundation)Indonesia Gastronomy Network

The Taste of Mollucas

This is pala, or in English known as nutmeg, noz-moscada in Portuguese, a magical spice that mesmerises the world. A social mark of the high ranks and the wealthy for hundreds of years. During 10th century in Venice, one pound of nutmeg was worth more than one pound of gold.

Nutmeg & Peppercorn from Gerard's 'Herbal' (1597) by John GerardGarden Museum

The virtues of Nutmeg well recorded for centuries

Nutmeg was explained in the Gerard's Herbal published in London, 1597. It wrote that nutmeg is good to amend bad breaths, good against cold diseases. During the Black Death, nutmeg prices exploded because people believed it might keep away the plague.

Run Island, Indonesia (2017-11-28) by NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science TeamNASA

Mystery location until early 1500s

The island's ruler Orangkaya have traded with the Chinese, Persian for hundreds of years. In 1512,  the Portuguese began trading nutmeg followed by the Dutch and British. In 1677, the English ceded Run Island to the Dutch in return for Manhattan which allowed the Dutch to secured their monopoly.

Landschap op Groot Banda (Lontor of Banda Besar) ('Vegetationsbild von groß Banda') (ca. 1875 - ca. 1880) by Dietrich, C. (fotograaf)Rijksmuseum

Banda Island dark and bloody history

The island's nutmeg and clove became crucial to colonialist countries from 1520s until 1800s. The fights to secure nutmeg and cloves monopoly was so extreme that in 1621 more than 13,000 Orangkaya were massacred by VOC lead by J.P. Coen leaving only 500 Orangkaya left.  

Portrait of nutmeg harvesters on Banda (1865/1885) by H. (Hendrik) Veen (1823 - 1905)Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

Portrait of Nutmeg harvesters on Banda c.1865 -1885

Many generations of nutmeg harvesters have lived in the island and it is through their hard work that nutmegs reached many places all over the world. 

After the massacre, to cope with plantation in Banda, VOC brought in slaves from Borneo, Makassar, Buginese, Malay, Javanese, Chinese, some Portuguese, Moluccan, and Butonese.

Pomander (1601) by UnknownPharmacy Museum

Nutmeg reaches Europe

pomander, from French pomme d'ambre, i.e., apple of amber, is a ball made for aromatics. Back in the days, this used to be attached onto a belt and was used as protection against Black Death or dissimulate certain mix or aromatics.

This pomander is in spherical shape with six compartments each for cinnamon, rosemary, rose, nutmeg, negelken and schlag. 

Nutmeg GraterHome of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site

... and Americas

Nutmeg grater used to be a common use amongst traders, rulers alike. Such as this one, that belongs to Franklin D. Roosevelt father, James. These traders and rulers would keep this handy wherever they go to have a freshly grated nutmeg at any time. 

Map of the Maluku Islands from The First Voyage Around the World (1800) by Antonio de PigafettaOriginal Source: Museo Naval. Madrid. Todos los derechos reservados.

Find the finest quality of clove at the island of Ternate and Tidore where finest quality of clove came from. Follow the aroma...

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