Terms and concepts used

In this online project many concepts are used that may not always commonly used. Below you will find an explanation for a number of terms, persons and places – with thanks to Tristan Mostert.


Adat: tradition. The whole of social standards, cultural practices, and customary law of a community.

Mace: the red membrane around the nutmeg, which has a slightly different aroma than the nut itself.  Traditionally mace is dried, processed and sold separately from the nut.

Kenari: canarium indicum, a tall tree with buttress roots to which almond-like nuts grow. It is generally found in the Moluccas. It was planted, a.o. between the clove and nutmeg trees, because they grew better under the light shadow of the canopy of the kenari.

kora-kora: a large canoe with outrigger, often with a sail, which was generally used as warship in the Moluccas. The communities on the Banda Islands had particularly large kora-kora with at times up to hundreds of crewmen. (The original kora-kora is different from the canoes without outriggers that we call kora-kora today.)

Mama lima: the female carriers of knowledge and traditions within the Orlima community.

Mardijker (Merdika / Mardika):  general term for free, mostly Christian Asian inhabitants from outside the region concerned itself. In the Moluccas the term is used to refer to the mixed Asian population that is partly an inheritance from the Portuguese period, but that grew further in the VOC period, particularly due to emancipated (often Christian) slaves.  (Merdika/Merdekah – Merdeka = free.)

Orang kaya: term for political leaders (Literal meaning: rich man.) Each of the different communities on the Banda Islands was led by an orang kaya. For matters concerning the islands as a whole, the various orang kaya held meetings to determine common policy and settle disputes.

Orang lima = orlima/urlima. The male carriers of knowledge and tradition within the Orlima community.

Pala: the indigenous name for nutmeg.

Perkenier (= perk manager) (perken, perkenier system): the perkeniers were those who had the nutmeg tree gardens/plantations on Banda (the perken) on loan from the VOC, and later from the Dutch State.  They grew the nutmeg there with slave labour and they supplied it to the VOC for fixed prices. The perkenier system  took shape in 1621, when most of the native population of the islands had gone, and it would continue to exist until 1873. 

Sago: flour or doughy substance, from the inside of the sago palm tree. In large parts of the Moluccas and New Guinea, where rice is barely grown, it was and is the staple food for the local population.

Syahbandar / shahbandar: port master, collector of port fees, and therefore intermediary between visiting traders and the local community. (shah – head/king, bandar = port)

Ulilima (also urlima of patalima): an alliance between various communities. (uli = community, lima = five.)  The ulilima and their rivalry with the ulisiwa occurred in large parts of het Moluccas. Often, but not always, the members of the ulilima were the coastal Islamic trading communities.

Ulisiwa (also ursiwa or patasiwa): an alliance between various communities (uli = community, siwa = nine.)  The ulisiwa and their rivalry with the ulilima occurred in large parts of the Moluccas. Often, but not always, the members of the ulisiwa adhered to the original religions in the area, or they were Christians.

personal names

Verhoeff, P.W. (approx. 1573 – 1609): VOC admiral who arrived on the Banda Islands in 1609 to make the inhabitants commit to the VOC ‘met tractaet of gewelt’ (‘by treaty or by force’). When he started the construction of a fort on Neira without formal approval, he was lured into an ambush and killed by the Bandanese. This caused further open hostilities between the VOC and the Bandanese.

Coen, J.P. (1587 – 1629): Fourth governor-general of the VOC. In 1621 he led the expedition that would lead to the depopulation of Lontor, and who would bring all the Banda Islands under VOC control.

Heemskerck, Jacob van (1567 – 1607): Together with Wijbrant van Warwijck he led the first Dutch fleet that arrived in the Banda Islands in 1599.

Rijali / Sifarijali (approx. 1590 – after 1653): imam of the island of Hitu. He fled after the fall of Hitu. He wrote the Hikayat Tanah Hitu, the only history from the 17th century written by a Moluccan, in which he also describes the conquest of the Banda Islands by the VOC.

Rumphius, G.E. (1627 – 1702):  came to Ambon as a soldier and there he was able to eventually apply himself wholly to nature research while in the service of the VOC. He wrote many books about Ambon and the Moluccas, among which the natural historical Amboinsche Kruidboek (catalogue of plants).

Des Alwi (1927 – 2010): diplomat and historian, native of the Banda Islands. Adopted son of Mohammed Hatta, who later became vice-president of Indonesia. He wrote several historical works about Banda and the Moluccas and he was a great advocate for the islands.

place names


-4.528466632321065, 129.8997918463241

Trading post on the south side of the island of Banda Neira. It was destroyed in 1609 and conquered by the VOC.

Nassau, fort

-4.528359678884293, 129.89790357107967

VOC fort, built near Neira in 1609. The fact that VOC Admiral Verhoeff started the construction of this fort without permission was the cause of the ambush, during which he died, as well as for the further escalation of the conflict on the Banda Islands.

Belgica, fort

-4.526263388331954, 129.89909447194404

Originally built as a redoubt to offer protection to the lower situated fort Nassau; later it was expanded to a pentagonal fort.

Revengie, fort

-4.518953062388596, 129.77364755642645

Built after the conquest of the island Ay in 1616. It is also known as ‘fort Revenge’


-4.549317157316271, 129.87926362258548

Settlement on the west side of the island of Lontor. This well-defended place was ultimately conquered by VOC troops on the 11th of March 1621. 


-4.545552495548654, 129.89634392945766

This settlement was the neutral consultation location of the orang kaya of the whole archipelago, who determined common policy and settled disputes here, under a tall waringin (ficus) tree. The town was conquered together with Lontor in March of 1621.



Labataka / Lautaka

-4.50403529695315, 129.8999696557578

Town on the north side of the island of Banda Neira. It was pillaged and destroyed by VOC troops in July of 1609.

Selama / Selamon

-4.527276688302531, 129.93918891664546

Settlement on the northeast coast of the island of Banda Lontor. Initially it surrendered to the VOC during the conquest of 1621. Nevertheless, it was decided in April of 1621 to take the inhabitants of Selama prisoner and to deport them from the island.


2.7312237536089308, 125.387026864339

In 1616, the VOC managed to get the population of this island onboard a ship through cunning and deception and forcibly deport them to the Banda Islands, as part of a plan to repopulate parts of the archipelago. However, most of the people of Siau managed to escape soon after they got to Pulau Ay.

Banda Neira

-4.518840759730604, 129.90339673550776

One of the central islands in the Banda Island group. At the beginning of the 17th century the Neira settlement, that gives its name to the whole island, was the main trading post in the archipelago. In 1609 the island was conquered by the VOC.

Banda Lontor / Banda Besar

-4.55601731027616, 129.91421140175714

The largest island of the Banda Island group. It derives the name Lontor from a settlement on the western side of the island. The island is also called Banda Besar (Great Banda). After the bloody conquest and depopulation of this island in 1621 the VOC had all the Banda Islands under its control.

Gunung Api

-4.522391652229529, 129.88065160157

The active volcano that is responsible for the creation of the archipelago. Its ash making the central islands so fertile for, among other things, the nutmeg tree. In the 17th century the volcanic island was not permanently inhabited.


-4.526755375399894, 129.772590766225

It was conquered by the VOC in 1616. The population fled the island; the VOC repopulated it and divided it into nutmeg tree perken.


-4.557044023554272, 129.68178189739828

In 1616 Run, the westernmost island of the Banda Islands, had placed itself under het protection of the English, yet in 1621 it felt forced to surrender to the VOC. In reaction to a rumour about a conspiracy, the population was enslaved nonetheless the next year and all the men on the island were killed. In Europe the island was formally still regarded as an English possession until the Treaty of Breda (1667).

Rosengain / Hatta

-4.592951396839636, 130.039047274252

Rosengain is the easternmost island of the Banda Island group, and it was brought under VOC control in 1621. Initially, this island was divided into perken too; however, after 1627 the nutmeg production was concentrated on Lontor, Neira and Ay and the trees were cut down.

After that, Rosengain served as a place of exile for VOC prisoners. Nowadays the island is called Pulau Hatta, after the most famous political exile that ever stayed on the island group: Mohammed Hatta, who later became vice-president of Indonesia.


-3.1279320386933556, 129.2713775793502

Large island at over 100 km north of the Banda Islands. Originally, the Bandanese were in frequent contact with the inhabitants along the south coast of Seram, in particular on the east side of the island and therefore this is where part of the population of the islands fled to in 1621. West Seram was a region that produced cloves and for that reason it was the stage of spice wars until the 1650s. 


-3.607431127580966, 128.140004775916

A state on the northern peninsula of the island of Ambon. It became an ally of the Dutch in 1599, but it got increasingly trapped between the VOC and the various other states in the region. Ultimately, it was conquered by the VOC in the 1640s.


-3.6725308529372667, 128.20248952036806

Island to the northwest of the Banda Islands. From 1605 the south side of the island (Leitimor) was under direct VOC control.


0.7919419829864968, 127.37553896776944

One of the sultanates of the North Moluccas. In 1607 the sultan forged an alliance with the VOC, in exchange for exclusive supplies of cloves. In name the sultan ruled large parts of the Moluccas, which were therefore included in this alliance.

Kei Islands (also called Kai)

-5.780483065325639, 132.86108851138212

Originally the Bandanese had trade contacts with this island group. That is why many Bandanese fled to these islands in 1621. To this day the original Bandanese language is still spoken in the villages of Banda Eli and Banda Elat, the exodus of 1621 is still recalled in oral traditions and various other Bandanese cultural traditions continue to exist.

Melaka / Malakka

2.1915779229145467, 102.25244506738407

Important warehouse port in Southeast Asia, conquered by the Portuguese in 1511. The Bandanese had extensive trading contacts with this town.


-5.189083941731143, 119.40620817038108

The capital and main port of a kingdom in Southern Sulawesi, that became an increasing source of rebellion against the VOC spices monopoly. After 1621, many Bandanese refugees found refuge here.


-6.1430318794796275, 106.84186632251678

VOC headquarters from 1621. What is now called: Jakarta.

For the compilation of this list de Atlas of Mutual Heritage (www.atlasofmutualheritage.nl) and the VOC Glossary and (http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vocglossarium/) were used, a.o.