Aside from my attendance in International Conference on Alfred Russel Wallace and the Wallacea last week in Makassar, I forced myself to visit Fort Rotterdam during the drizzling rain of Friday afternoon.
Alfred Russel Wallace landed in Makassar in 1856. In this site, a prince from Java (Pangeran Diponegoro) was exiled by the Dutch colonial government in Fort Rotterdam. Pangeran Diponegoro was the great warrior during Java war. He was the son of Hamengku Buwono III, the Sultan of Mataram who refused to take the throne and chose to live as common peasant in Tegalrejo, in Central Java. Two of the renowned naturalists live in the Malay Archipelago during the Prince’s life. Thomas Stamford Raffles, a British lieutenant general of Java during 1811-1815 and also a naturalist had certainly responsible of the changing system of Mataram sultanate such as crowning the teenage brother of Diponegoro. When the Dutch colonialist took over, the 5-year “Diponegoro war” took place in Java. And later, Diponegoro was exiled in Manado in 1830 and then transferred to Makassar in 1834 where he passed away in 1855. The Prince has probably met two of renowned naturalists somewhere and sometime in his life, Wallace and Raffles. That was why I put a special interest in visiting the old fort of Ujung Pandang.
Ujung Pandang fort was first build by the King of Gowa, Imanrigau Daeng Bonto Karaeng Lakiung, in 1545. During colonization, the fort was taken over by the Dutch, reconstructed in 1667 and was named as Fort Rotterdam. Now, it is considered as the best preserved Dutch fort in Asia. Walking during the drizzling afternoon rain made me wonder of the past. Covering 21.253 km2 area, my mind travelled to the past and thought of the Dutch colonial soldiers walking around this fort, thought of how Diponegoro was treated. I forced myself to see the dungeon where Diponegoro was imprisoned. A table with a Qur’an, a chair, a small bed, and a praying mat….
Wallace started his journey in the Malay Archipelago in 1854. He was able to survey and search the forest of Sulawesi, astonished by the beauty of butterfly wings, and discovered his theory of natural selection. He was offered full support by the Dutch governor of Makassar. His letter from Ternate to Charles Darwin in 1858 has stimulated Darwin to publish ‘the Origin of Species’. Wallace was nobody compared to Darwin at that time. But his passionate to keep on exploring the uniqueness of the Malay Archipelago had made him published several important papers later on natural selection, variations, and speciation. Around the same time, Pangeran Diponegore was already behind bars, was forced to stop his war and not able to follow up his vision on freedom. They both were here in Fort Rotterdam in such a different situation. But they both landed in this particular site as they both occupied the same place in my heart. Both were men with passion and spirit to capture the real beauty of the land of Malay Archipelago…..