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Macassan History and Heritage

Macassan History and Heritage: Journeys, Encounters and Influences

Marshall Clark
Sally K. May
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Macassan History and Heritage
    Book Description:

    This book presents inter-disciplinary perspectives on the maritime journeys of the Macassan trepangers who sailed in fleets of wooden sailing vessels known as praus from the port city of Makassar in southern Sulawesi to the northern Australian coastline. These voyages date back to at least the 1700s and there is new evidence to suggest that the Macassan praus were visiting northern Australia even earlier. This book examines the Macassan journeys to and from Australia, their encounters with Indigenous communities in the north, as well as the ongoing social and cultural impact of these connections, both in Indonesia and Australia.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-97-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. 1. Understanding the Macassans: A regional approach
    (pp. 1-18)
    Marshall Clark and Sally K. May

    This volume addresses the history and heritage of the ‘Macassan’ fishers who made the long and sometimes dangerous maritime journey from the port town of Makassar in southern Sulawesi to the coastline of Arnhem Land and the Kimberley, northern Australia, from before European settlement in Australia until the early twentieth century.¹ The essays of this collection present an interdisciplinary perspective on the maritime journeys of the Macassans, as well as their encounters with Aboriginal communities in the north and the ongoing impact this exchange has had on Aboriginal languages, societies and cultures. The primary reason for the Macassan visits to...

  4. 2. Studying trepangers
    (pp. 19-40)
    Campbell Macknight

    Trepang has been collected, processed, traded or consumed by diverse groups of people, largely in East and Southeast Asia, but also, importantly, in northern Australia. The producers of trepang, however, have not usually traded their product beyond the initial sale, and the consumers have been different again. This has meant that those who have studied and written about trepang and trepangers have often done so in relative ignorance of other parts of the overall story and the separate literatures that have developed are divided not just by geographical coverage, since there are also distinct differences of discipline and approach. As...

  5. 3. Crossing the great divide: Australia and eastern Indonesia
    (pp. 41-54)
    Anthony Reid

    The enterprise of understanding ‘Macassan history and heritage’ is one of valorising the many crossings of the gulf between northern Australia and eastern Indonesia. To do justice to those crossings, however, we must first of all clarify the immensity of the gulf itself, which I will call ‘the Great Divide’. Viewed in the long term, it is a divide more fundamental than that between any other two neighbours in the world, and the crossings of it were no mean feat. Once humans extended the use of efficient sailing craft into the waters north of Australia some thousands of years ago,...

  6. 4. Histories with traction: Macassan contact in the framework of Muslim Australian history
    (pp. 55-68)
    Regina Ganter

    Australia’s pre-British contact with the Indonesian archipelago is one of the most intriguing chapters of Australian history.¹ These early Indonesian visitors, long referred to in the introductory byline of standard Australian histories as ‘Macassans’, once came and went without a trace. But they have now become a staple part of the Australian story, no longer considered incidental and inconsequential.

    The pockets of awareness of the histories of ‘Afghans’, ‘Macassans’ and ‘Malays’ in Australia—none of which is a strictly ethnic appellation—have been forged into a cohesive historical narrative by the ‘War on Terror’, which redefined all of these groups...

  7. 5. Interpreting the Macassans: Language exchange in historical encounters
    (pp. 69-94)
    Paul Thomas

    The commencement of regular journeys by trepang fishing fleets out of Makassar to the Australian north coast in the second half of the eighteenth century represents the beginning of Asia’s regular contact with Australia. The cyclical nature of the visits and the complexity of the engagement meant there was strong motivation for communication to take place, something that went beyond simple hand gestures and a smattering of borrowed words. For the first hundred years of these visits, this produced an exchange across the cultures and languages of Indonesians and Indigenous Australians. Subsequently, after the European discovery of the industry in...

  8. 6. Unbirri’s pre-Macassan legacy, or how the Yolngu became black
    (pp. 95-106)
    Ian S. McIntosh

    From the mid 1980s to the early 1990s, I was most fortunate to make the acquaintance of the Warramiri Aboriginal leader David Burrumarra MBE. A person of great consequence in northeast Arnhem Land, Burrumarra had been a leader in the establishment of Christian missions at Yirrkala and Galiwin’ku in the 1930s and 1940s and an advocate for self-determination in the post-mission period (McIntosh 1994). Burrumarra considered himself and was considered by others to be an intellectual and he was much sought after by politicians, religious leaders and social scientists, both for his astonishing general knowledge and for his influence within...

  9. 7. ‘An Arnhem Land adventure’: Representations of Macassan–Indigenous Australian connections in popular geographical magazines
    (pp. 107-126)
    Rebecca Bilous

    Laklak Burarrwanga (Datiwuy and Rirratjingu elder, caretaker for Gumatj and eldest sister) regularly tells visitors to her home at Bawaka in northeast Arnhem Land stories about the Macassans in the same way her fathers and grandfathers told them to her. In 1987 Laklak made her own journey to Sulawesi to find family members (described by Cooke 1987), whom she still remains in contact with, and Indigenous people from all over Arnhem Land have been involved in a number of projects that have, in different ways, celebrated their connections to Makassar (for examples, see Janson 2001; Langton 2011; Palmer 2007; Stephenson...

  10. 8. Rock art evidence for Macassan–Aboriginal contact in northwestern Arnhem Land
    (pp. 127-140)
    Paul S. C. Taçon and Sally K. May

    Some of the most important evidence for the activities of Southeast Asian or ‘Macassan’² visitors to Australia prior to the European settlement of this continent can be found in the rock art of northern Australia—from the Kimberley to the Top End of the Northern Territory to parts of northern Queensland (for example, see Chaloupka 1993, pp. 191–2; 1996; Clarke and Frederick 2006; Roberts 2004). Rock art is widely acknowledged as encoding social, economic and cultural information about the artists and their cultural groups and it can reflect changes in these societies as well as the wider landscape. This...

  11. 9. Drug substances introduced by the Macassans: The mystery of the tobacco pipe
    (pp. 141-158)
    Maggie Brady

    It has become conventional wisdom to assert that the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet in 1788 was the means by which both alcohol and tobacco were first introduced to Australia’s Indigenous people. This was not the case, of course, for it was Australia’s other ‘first fleet’, of Macassan praus, already established as an annual event well before Phillip’s arrival (Burningham 1994), which brought these drug substances to a virgin population in the north. Until the first British attempts at settlement on that northern coast,¹ the Macassans were the only regular source of alcohol and tobacco for the Aboriginal...

  12. 10. Tangible heritage of the Macassan–Aboriginal encounter in contemporary South Sulawesi
    (pp. 159-182)
    Marshall Clark

    There are several under-explored areas in the scholarship on the so-called ‘Macassans’, the trepang fishers of diverse ethnicity originating from the Sulawesi port of Makassar who voyaged to the coastline of northern Australia to fish for trepang, also known as sea cucumber, from at least 1720 to the 1906/7 season. The most noticeable gap in the field is in respect to China, the final destination of the processed trepang in the Macassan era.¹ The other relatively under-explored area is Makassar itself, the major disembarkation point for the Macassan trepang fishing fleets. This chapter will partly redress this scholarly lacuna by...

  13. 11. Traditional and ‘modern’ trepang fisheries on the border of the Indonesian and Australian fishing zones
    (pp. 183-204)
    Dedi Supriadi Adhuri

    Fishing for trepang is one of the oldest practices of maritime resource exploitation. Its story started in China, the country where trepang consumption was and still is common. In China, trepang is called hai-sen or sea ginseng. The first reference to hai-sen was found in a sixteenth-century work, the Shih-wu pet-ts ao, which outlined the use of trepang in relation to various substances of medical use (Macknight 1976, p. 7). Another book, the Miscellanies of Five Items, which was published in 1602, describes trepang as an aphrodisiac (Schwerdtner Máñez and Ferse 2010). Later in the same century, trepang is mentioned...

  14. 12. Travelling the ‘Malay Road’: Recognising the heritage significance of the Macassan maritime trade route
    (pp. 205-226)
    Sandy Blair and Nicholas Hall

    The ‘Malay Road’, just off the northeastern tip of Arnhem Land, was part of the historical route followed by annual fleets from the port of Makassar in what is now South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The fleets sailed to the northern Australian coastline, seeking edible Holothuria,¹ commonly known as trepang or sea cucumber. As mentioned throughout this volume, these marine invertebrates of the echinoderm family were prized for their culinary and medicinal values in Chinese markets. This extensive maritime tradition and trading connection linked Australia, Sulawesi and China and long predated European settlement of Australia. Recent research based on the dating of...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 227-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-238)