Far away, in the middle of the vast Banda Sea in eastern Indonesia, lies an archipelago that played a crucial role in Dutch prosperity and history: the Banda Islands. Once the only place on earth where nutmeg grew and therefore of indescribable value for the VOC. It is not without reason that one of the islands, Banda Run, was part of the historic exchange for Manhattan together with Suriname.
To this day, the Dutch presence resonates in culture and in the physical landscape. You will find traces of a shared past everywhere: in the old buildings such as fortresses, houses and the church; in the ancient shards of shiploads that still wash up on the beaches every day; in ritual dances and stories about one’s own history; and we also find Dutch in local language.
This wealth of shared cultural heritage, combined with the tranquility and idyllic atmosphere of the archipelago, makes the islands an attractive and special travel destination. Only the Banda Islands are so difficult to reach that very few make the trip. Due to its isolated location, outside attention for culture and heritage is still very limited. But that is likely to change soon.
At present, the Banda Islands have been nominated on the Tentative List for Future Indonesian World Heritage (UNESCO), possibly leading to the further profiling of the islands as a tourist interesting place. There is also growing interest in the archipelago from the Netherlands, especially from the perspective of heritage conservation. The increasing attention raises questions in my mind about the future of the islands and what this means for the local community.
In her project, Isabelle Boon searches for the ideas and interests of a young generation of islanders. How do the youth of the Banda Islands view their history? Do they want to shake off the past or are they proud of the islands, their strong identity and shared heritage? Do they want to go or stay? How do they see their future? By portraying their lives, Isabelle Boon gives the archipelago a contemporary and human face, breaking free from its one-sided image of historical paradise.