Cultural Links

Indonesia and Africa – Cultural links behind the Borobudur Ship Expedition.

One of the objectives of the Borobudur Ship Expedition is to highlight the cultural influence that Indonesia and Asia contributed to the Indian Ocean and Africa during the first millennium AD. This is a complex story with many strands and differing interpretations. However, whilst there are many possible links, there are three main influences and activities that stand out.

First, it is known from Roman times, through writers such as Pliny, that Cinnamon came to Europe via East Africa by way of epic sea journeys across the Indian Ocean. To begin with these journeys were probably made by rafts and double-outrigger canoes. As the trade developed, the sophistication of the vessels would have increased over the centuries. The Borobudur Ship would have represented the one of the more sophisticated vessels, probably appearing around the second half of the first millennium AD. However there is no evidence that the Cinnamon trade was undertaken any further south than the shores of Mozambique. Whilst the Indonesian/Malays would have brought mainly spices to African shores, in return they would have returned via India and Sri Lanka with ivory, iron, skins and in some cases slaves. These perilous round-trip journeys may have taken anything up to 3 years to complete.

Secondly, and not linked to the trade in spices, there were certain very significant migrations of Indonesian peoples to Madagascar. Experts believe that Madagascar was an uninhabited island when the migrations started. It is believed that the migrations took place during and possibly before the first millennium AD. Today the Malagasy people recognise that many of their ancestors were from Indonesia (mainly Sumatra, Kalimantan and Java) and this is reflected in the Malagasy language, the physical features of many Malagasy and their traditions and customs.

Thirdly, there was widespread botanical influences on parts of Africa, including West Africa. For example the botanical influences that reached West Africa by the first millennium include yams, taro, maize, plantains (bananas), Asian rice and the betel nut. Although it is possible that the latter two spices arrived later than the first millennium . How these botanical influences got to West Africa is a matter of debate. Although it would not have been easy, it is conceivable that the botanical influences travelled overland and along rivers across a corridor of land in central Africa.

The alternative was a sea route via the Cape. Whilst this too would have been difficult it is not inconceivable that at certain times of the year such a route was possible. A further option is that such influences were a combination of local groups and seafarers.

There is certainly a growing body of opinion that the level of trade activity along African shores was much greater in the first millennium that has been accepted until now. And as more information becomes available, a better picture of trade and cultural interaction across the Indian Ocean will emerge. It is the intention of the Expedition that more details of the cultural links between Indonesia and Africa will be contained in the book to be published about the expedition.

Looking for Sponsors

The expedition is likely to attract a high level of interest due to its unique nature and the academic debate about the extent of trans-Indian ocean migrations and trade during the first millennium and the resulting cultural influence on parts of Africa.

The benefits of sponsorship may include the following:

  • Extensive media coverage organised through specialist public relations companies in Jakarta and London who will ensure that opportunities for sponsors are maximised wherever possible through local and national media.
  • The planned documentary film and book will provide ongoing public exposure and exciting sponsorship opportunities.
  • Exposure from launch and post-launch events for sponsors and supporters.
  • The expedition is likely to be launched in Jakarta by a senior member of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia.
  • Sponsorship of an employee to sail on the ship during one of the four legs of the expedition will provide an outstanding opportunity for that person to benefit from having participated in the expedition. A maximum of two places have been reserved for leading sponsors. All potential candidates will be screened for their suitability.
  •  Product endorsements and feedback reports.
  • Exposure of sponsors’ logos at the launch and post lunch events, on various parts of the Ship, and on the expedition website
  • Attendance at post-expedition lectures and presentations.
  •  The opportunity to be involved in a unique expedition, including following the progress of the expedition through regular newsletter updates, potentially including satellite email and video clips from the voyage.

Please feel free to contact us if you or your company is interested in sponsorship.

Expedition Leaders

The expedition leader is Philip Beale. Aged 42, British, ex Royal Navy with a BA in Politics. He has participated in a number of international excursions including Operation Drake (1979) to Fiji and Papua New Guinea and other visits to Indonesia and Asia. Papers written include one on the evolution of political society and the Tami trading Canoe, the latter following a research project in Papua New Guinea. The concept and objective of the Borobudur Ship Expedition was devised by Philip Beale and is a long held personal goal.

The team is currently being selected from around the world and within Indonesia..

A Master Mariner will captain the vessel supported by a number of experienced watch officers and crew. An important consideration in finalising the team is to ensure that the expedition benefits from a number of experienced professionals, particularly in the areas of navigation, seamanship and safety.

There will also be an opportunity for a number of less experienced international and Indonesian participants to become involved in this project which will assist in the preservation of an important part of Afro/Asian cultural heritage. These people will naturally benefit in terms of personal development.

The rest of the crew will be finalised over the coming weeks as we prepare for the final stages before we take off.