Savu during Dutch occupation

Initial contact was with the Dutch Vereenigde Oost-Indische Companie in 1648. References to Savu from the period invariably concern Savunese soldiers, mercenaries or slaves. In 1674, the crew of a Dutch sloop were massacred in East Savu, after their vessel ran aground. The Dutch responded by forming an alliance with the Du Ae (king) of Seba, so troops could be sent in to retaliate. However, they failed to enter the fortress of Hurati, in B'o Lou (B'olou/Bolou) Village of Eastern Savu, as it was ringed by three defensive walls. To save face, the Dutch force accepted payment in the form of slaves, gold and beads. (Fox 1977, p113).

This Dutch lithograph is of a Sawunese Warrior from 1839-47. The inscription reads "Voorvechter van het eiland Sawoe."

In 1756, treaties were signed between the Dutch and each of the five states of Savu: Heb'a, Mehara, Menia, Dimu and Lii Ae. Prominent leaders were subsequently awarded the titles of Du Ae (King) and fettor (Governor). However, the Dutch inadvertently created a power structure that fundamentally differed to how Savunese society had previously operated. They failed to appreciate that the Savunese had two different kinds of leader. The regions were governed by royalty, known as Du Ae (kings) and Beni Ae (Queens), who were selected according to their
royal lineage. However, there were also spiritual leaders, who did not rule, but rather conducted ceremonies related to the Savunese calendar. Unaware of the distinction, the Dutch signed agreements with many spiritual leaders, mistaking them for royalty, and nominated many kings/queens and fettors who did not in fact belong to the royal lineage recognised by the Savunese at the time.

Copyright © 2006 Ina Tali/Francesca Von Reinhaart


Fox, James J. (1977)
Harvest of the Palm: Ecological Change in Eastern Indonesia.
Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard University Press.

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