I love Banda focuses on the intertwined history of the Netherlands and the Banda Islands

The National Maritime Museum “Het Scheepvaartmuseum” and documentary photographer Isabelle Boon will open the exhibition I love Banda on May 6th at 4 pm with an online program: a project about the influence of the colonial past on the Banda archipelago of today. From the perspective of six young people, a layered story unfolds about heritage, identity, community spirit and being young.
This year it will be 400 years ago that Jan Pieterszoon Coen finally conquered the Banda Islands on behalf of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company, in order to obtain a monopoly on the nutmeg and mace trade. This left the islands were virtually depopulated because people fled, were murdered, starved or were enslaved. The VOC repopulated the archipelago with enslaved workers who were put to work on plantations. Banda became the first slavery-based colony under Dutch rule. With I love Banda, Isabelle Boon investigates how the current generation of Bandanese young people view their history. What significance does the ubiquitous colonial heritage have for them? And how do they see their future and that of the islands? I love Banda can be seen in Het Scheepvaartmuseum until November 7th, 2021.

Diana | Isabelle Boon

"Looking at the Banda Islands from a contemporary and human perspective, I have tried to offer an alternative to the common and one-sided image of Banda as a heritage paradise."
Isabelle Boon about her project I love Banda

I love Banda

Documentary photographer Isabelle Boon turned her lens on today's Banda. Six young islanders - with whom she built up a special bond - play the leading role in I love Banda a visual narrative that at first glance seems to be straightforward. It shows images of the personal lives of those young people, of their cultural heritage (from way before until long after Dutch rule), of the characteristics of the archipelago and of the dynamics of everyday life. On closer inspection, you will see how past and present interact and how it tells stories about culture, identity and religion. From the perspectives, dreams and ambitions of Mega Vani, Karis, Ulfa, Ode, Nabila and Nyellow, we learn to understand the Banda Islands as a place in the present time. You are invited to introspect Banda’s tumultuous history. In addition to the exhibition I love Banda more than four hundred photos come together in the publication of the same name.

History of the Banda Islands

The mountainous Banda Archipelago was the only place on earth where nutmeg and mace were grown until the mid-18th century. The enormous demand for these spices made Banda an important trading center. In the early 17th century, the VOC claimed its role in the lucrative spice trade. No means was shunned to gain a monopoly. Due to "violation" of an enforced contract, the VOC sent a punitive expedition in 1621 under the leadership of Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587-1629) to conquer Pulau Lontar (Banda Besar). His performance is regarded as the gruesome final scene of a step-by-step conquest of the Banda archipelago by the VOC. The Dutch regarded the islands as their own territory after the bloody conquest and introduced a systematic cultivation of nutmeg trees with perken (plantations), perkeniers (supervisors) and forced labor. To this day, the Dutch colonial presence resonates in the culture and landscape of the islands. 

Isabelle Boon

Documentary photographer Isabelle Boon (1972) portrays the positive energy and passion of people in their environment. She tells the bigger story from real, often small everyday situations. Respect, carefulness, solidarity and reciprocity are important keywords for her working method, which is characterized by a mainly personal approach. By looking carefully and having conversations, Isabelle Boon gains insight into the personal story of the person in front of her. Boon's style is pure, direct, intuitive and close. She uses natural light as much as possible and looks for spontaneous moments. Photos - always in color - are hardly ever edited. Isabelle Boon works at home and abroad. Her last project Heritage in Transition about the influence of the re-designation of colonial buildings and infrastructure in the old city centers of Jakarta and Semarang on the current residents and new users, has been exhibited in Kota Tua (Jakarta), Kota Lama (Semarang ), Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden) and Museum Sophiahof (Den Haag). The encounters with young people on the Banda Islands and the realization that the colonial heritage plays a major role in the future development of the islands, was the start of the I love Banda project. Some of the photos included in Het Scheepvaartmuseum were previously on display at Rumah Budaya, the local museum on Banda Neira.

Podcast series and manuscript research

Apart from the exhibition I love Banda Het Scheepvaartmuseum also reflects on the collective history between the Netherlands and the Banda islands in other ways. In the three-part podcast Het Scheepvaartmuseum: Banda & Beyond Beyond Walls explores this tumultuous history together with Het Scheepvaartmuseum, experts, historians and artists. Based on stories about Banda, past and present, moderators Wim Manuhutu and Glenda Pattipeilohy will talk to Anne van Engelenhoven, Romy Rondeltap, Nancy Jouwe, Joëlla van Donkersgoed and Stefanie van Gemert. The first episode will come online on Thursday, May 6th, on the museum's Spotify account.
Dr. Joëlla van Donkersgoed is researching a 1922 manuscript from the museum’s  collection, which was written in Malay and which was presumed to be lost. It was written by M.S. Neirabatij. The manuscript discusses the history of the islands, and the role of Islam. Its main focus is not on the European colonizers, but on local leaders and heroes. This manuscript is the oldest written known source on the oral history of the Banda Islands. Therefore, the manuscript might be able to teach us more and contribute to a wider perspective  on the history of the Banda Islands. The results of the research will be exhibited in the museum in June.

Het Scheepvaartmuseum

Het Scheepvaartmuseum shows how water connects worlds. In addition to the historical exhibitions, the museum shows work by contemporary artists. Isabelle Boon's photos are a great example of Het Scheepvaartmuseum's mission to show how the maritime world and society are interconnected and what impact this has on the everyday lives of individuals. With the exhibition I love Banda” Het Scheepvaartmuseum shows a contemporary vision on the historical relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia and its impact on today. This enables the museum to make the concepts of colonial past and slavery accessible to a wide audience and to facilitate a dialogue on these subjects.