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Beaches and an old drum

The location of Selayar as a long, narrow barrier on the trade route to Maluku, has given the island a little place in the history books, besides it's rocky look. The island should have been a center of trade on it's own in the 14th century, because it's named in the Javanese poem Nagarakertagama. There also is a remarkable abundancy of ceramics from China and Sawankhalok (Thailand) excavated from the same period. Islam seems to have arrived on Selayar in the 16th century, from the eastern islands of Ternate and Buton.
It was Makassar which first ruled over the fighting principalties. Selayar was a precious treasure, not only because of it's location, but also because of it's rough, blue-white cotton Selayaran fabric which was loved throughout the archipelago. At least from the 16th to the 19th century it was the most important crop and export product of the island.

In the Treaty of Bungaya (1667), which mainly the Makassar kingdom, Selayar was demanded by Ternate, but in the early 18th century the Dutch demanded it again. After that, 14 autonomous 'regents' of Selayar had to bring their fabrics to Fort Rotterdam. The last 150 years the Selayar fabrics have been reduced to nothing. The economy is dangerously depending on the coconut harvest and some other trade. The population hasn't grown much over the last century, because the former good location has turned over into isolation.
The geographical and cultural isolation has created an astonishing amount of unique phenomenons, like the linguistical twist of a living Buton language in the south. The southern village of Binanga Benteng was the center of the Mahdi Akbar-movement, a quasi-islamic messian direction which was oriented at the mystical teachings of Abdul Sani ('Tuang Opu'), which died there in 1922. In the 1930's some of the supporters converted to Christianity and after 1966, when the Mahdi Akbar-movement was banned by local islamic groups, others found their refuge in Hinduism.
The boat to Selayar leaves daily from Bira and arrives about two hours later. The trip can be heavy, but in common it's quite a nice trip, with very clear water and loads of fish. The beaches north of the ferry pier are as good as elsewhere on the island. From the Pamatata ferry depart minibuses to the west over a bald, rocky area, where the white coralite rock are used for stone walls. Water is scarce in this area, but still the area looks prosperous because of the fertile soil. Along the western oast there is a paved road surrounded by coconut trees. At sunset this is a pictureque trip through villages to the most important city of Benteng, where you can find a clean hotel.

Benteng and Bontobangun

In Benteng, the residence of the former manager, which dates from around 1890, offers a view over the central village square. At the northern side of this alun-alun is a seemingly very solid Dutch prison, also from the 1890's. At the western side, a figure with keris makes a move towards the sea to keep out intruders.
The nekara - the famous Dongson drum of Selayar - is kept in Bontobangun, three kilometers south of Benteng. It's located in a wooden shed close to the former palace of the raja of the area, Andi Arman, which' son is living there now. The drum was excavated in the 17th century in Papalohia, the center of a pre-islamic kingdom, and is about 2,000 years old. It's a beautiful example with an height of 95 cm and a diameter of 115 cm. On top, around a central star with 16 points, are four stylised frogs. One was chopped of, but has been retrieved. Around the start is a complicated pattern which forms 16 concentric circles. The sides, which are made from three parts, have four handles in pairs. The pattern differs per part: elephants, birds and coconut trees at the bottom, abstract motives in the center and peacocks on top.
Besides the drum, three pieces of a wooden prahu which sunk near Metalallong are also kept here. It was kept by the raja of Bontobangung as a magical ship, in which he sailed to Gowa. The remains are the head of a naga, about 110 cm high, with wings, head and teeth; the tail, around 150 cm long in style which looks like Majapahit; and a anjungan, the place where the captain was seated during giving command. There is an Arabic inscription 'Sultan Abd al-Malik, Tuban'; this points at a date in the 16th century, when Tuban was an important east-Javanese seaport.
From just below the microwave station you can go towards the east over a forest path toward the fortress of Gantarang on top of a hill. Gantarang, one of the strongest pre-islamic states in the area, was related with Buton and Luwu'. The village of several dozen houses is protected by 7-meter-high walls. It is said that there were 700 houses here once.
The mosque in Gantarang is said to be built in the 16th century under Datu ri Bandang, which spread islam over the area around Makassar. The old roof is still carried by an even older wooden frame. There also is an old mimbar and two old khutbah (verses) in Arabic. A sign in a rock close to the mosque is said to be a footprint of the Buginese hero Sawerigading; a print of the other foot is said to be in Mecca.

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