Asia, Indonesia, Island Nations, Maritime Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia

Indonesia – Krakatau, West of Java

In a well regarded analysis, the Volcano Krakatau, featured on our Indonesian banknote, was determined to be the inspiration for the notorious Norwegian impressionist painting, “Scream”.

The blood red sky in the 1893 painting is considered to be recollected, by the Norwegian painter, from the August 27, 1883 volcanic eruption, whose sound was heard 3000 miles away, and whose pressure wave was recorded around the world.  See the fuller article in Sky and Telescope here.

 

Indonesia 100 Rupiah banknote, 1992, back.

Krakatau.  The volcanic explosion is one of the largest, if not the largest, in recorded history.  It was 13,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, and lifted 6 cubic miles of earth into the air.

A famous error occurred in Hollywood’s recollection of the event in the move fanfared as “Krakatoa, East of Java.”  Well, the truth is, it’s to the West.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail from front of 100 Rupiah Indonesia banknote, featuring the traditional Pinisi sailboat used by Indonesia for centuries.
Indonesia 100 Rupiah banknote, 1992, front.
Caribbean Sea, Haiti, Island Nations

Haiti – The First Flag

 

Flag of France

The famous Tricolor of France.  The blue symbolizes Liberty.  The White Symbolizes Equality.  The Red symbolizes Fraternity.  Long may it wave.

And yet…..

One might imagine Dessalines, a leader in the Haitian revolution against the French, the first slave revolt of the New World that would lead to an independent nation, looking upon that flag as the tide turned in Haiti’s favor at the beginning of the 19th century.  “White”, he’d sneer. “Equalty”, he’d spit.

The story goes that Dessalines, ripped apart the French tricolor, the blue from the white, and the red from the white, throwing away the white, and leaving the remainder.

Catherine Flon, his goddaughter, a skilled nurse, and very active in the revolution, took the remaining red and blue, and sewed them together to create the original Flag of Haiti.

 

Haiti
France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean Sea, Haiti, Island Nations

Haiti – The Tigress of Haiti

Haiti bicentennial banknote, 1804-2004, featuring Santite Belair on the front.

“Long live Liberty, Down with Slavery”, were the last words of Suzanne Belair.

Well, did a contemporary Haitian leader name her The Tigress.

 

Detail from front of Haiti bicentennial banknote
Detail from front of Haiti bicentennial banknote.

Not quietly uttered, not in hushed tones, but shouted in the face of the French firing squad.  Sanite Belair faced the squad and refused a blindfold.

The witnessing townspeople, who the French hoped would be intimidated into submission at the sight of this woman’s execution, instead were fired up and continued the resistance.

Suzanne died in late 1802, and the French soon abandoned the Western Hemisphere entirely.

Suzanne was born around 1781.  She was born a free black woman, which afforded her a status better than the black slaves and worse than free whites.  But she despised slavery, joined the cause and married brigade commander Charles Belair, the nephew of the great Haitian freedom fighter Touissant  Louverture.  Together they instigated the uprising at L’Artibonite, which became one of the great battles of the Haitian Independence War.

Back side of Haiti bicentennial banknote, 1804-2004.
Indian Ocean, Island Nations, Maldives

Maldives – Beautiful Banknotes

The Republic of Maldives brings to us Beauty.  Enjoy!

Maldives banknote, front, 5 Rufiyaa

Cowrie Shells

Cowrie shells, illustrated left, were used as an early currency in Maldives.  An article on the use of Cowrie shells as money can be found here.

Coconuts

 

Coconut Palms are the national tree on the Maldives.  They grow in abundance throughout the islands.  A strange tale of their history is told here.

 

 

 

Kalhu’oh’fummi

The ship, the Kalhu’oh’fummi, was used by three brothers, Muhanmed Thakurufaanu and Ali and Hassan, in the liberation of the Maldives in the 16th century.

In 1558 the Portuguese established a small garrison in the Maldives and tried to impose Christianity on the locals.  I was still early in the era of colonialization.

The Portuguese rule was described in an Arabic chronicle as ‘‘a time when intolerable enormities were committed by the invading infidels, a time when the sea grew red with Maldivian blood, a time when people were sunk in despair…’’
In 1573, a leader arose, Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al-Azam and his two brothers to organize a revolt.

To bring an end to this, Muhammad Thakurufaanu, left the Maldive Islands for Maliku, an island about 440 miles north of Maldives, and now known as Minicoy.  There the three brothers built their ship and returned to Maldives determined to liberate their people.

It is said that he three brothers landed on a different island every night.  They fought the Portuguese during the darkness and set sail again into the ocean before daybreak. The Portuguese garrison had fixed a day for the forcible conversion of inhabitants to Christianity.  The brothers landed on that island, Male, the night before.  During the night they defeated that garrison and gained independence for their country, ending fifteen years of colonial rule.

The date is celebrated now as National Day.  In 2018, National Day is occurs on November 9.  The date varies with the Islamic calendar.

Maldives banknote, back, 5 Rufiyaa

Fishing scenes illustrate the back of this banknote.  As said by former a President, “Fishing is the lifeblood of our nation, it is inborn. From the soil on which we live, to the sea around us, it remains an integral part of our existence. Fishing, and our country and its people, [are] one and shall remain inseparable forever.”

The traditional fishing vessel is the “Dhivehi Odi”.  It resembles the dhow, a traditional Arabian sailing ship.  It is handcrafted in the islands from coconut timber.

 

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Caribbean Sea, Haiti, Island Nations

Haiti – The Slave Who Defeated Napoleon

Haiti banknote, featuring Toussaint Louverture, hero of the Haitian Revolution

Toussaint Louverture is a hero of Haiti’s independence.  He’s been called “the Slave who Defeated Napoleon”, in a fine article here.

Haiti was second state in the Americas to gain independence.  Haiti’s revolution against France began in 1791, just 8 years after the end of its northern neighbor’s war for independence.

The Haitian Revolution was essentially a slave revolt.  It consisted of a series of conflicts, from 1791 through 1804.  It consisted of shifting alliances of Haitian slaves, and conflicts with colonists and French and British troops.  During its course, slavery was abolished; and, in 1804, national independence was secured.   It has been considered the most successful slave revolt in history, and the only one leading to the founding of an independent state.

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Haiti’s present day population is, almost entirely, descended from African slaves.  The indigenous population was reduced to about 30,000 souls, within 2 decades following the island’s 1492 sighting by Columbus, due to European diseases, and, the brutal working conditions imposed by the Spaniards in their rapid exploitation of the island’s gold resources.  By the end of the 1500s, during which French pirates began to firmly entrench themselves in the territory, the indigenous peoples had virtually vanished.

As permanent settlements and plantations began to develop on the island, colonial landowners began importing slaves from Africa.  In the mid 1600s, the French West Indies Corporation took control of the area, and in 1697, the region was formally ceded to France from Spain.  As the sugar industry flourished, so did the slave importation industry, or, it should be said, as the slave industry flourished, so did the sugar industry.  There were about 5,000 slaves by the end of the 1600s.  By the end of the 1700s, when the revolution began, there were about 500,000 slaves. 

The colony’s population and economic output grew rapidly during the 1700s.  It became France’s most prosperous New World possession, exporting sugar and smaller amounts of coffee, cacao, indigo, and cotton. By the 1780s nearly two-thirds of France’s foreign investments were based on Saint-Domingue, Franc’s name for the island, and the number of stopovers by oceangoing vessels sometimes exceeded 700 per year.  In 1789, the year the French Revolution began, the Haitian Revolution began two years later.

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detail from banknote

Toussaint began as a slave, was partially educated by his godfather, and then self educated in the Greek philosophers, Machiavelli, and especially the writings of the French Enlightenment.  The French Revolution, with its calls for liberty and equality, influenced Toussaint.  He was a renowned horseman and became a leader in the Haitian battles.  By 1793, he had adopted the surname Louverture, from the French word meaning “opening” or “the one who opened the way”.  A standard explanation is that it refers to his ability to create openings in battle, and it is sometimes attributed to French commissioner Polverel’s exclamation: “That man makes an opening everywhere”.

On 29 August 1793 he made his famous declaration of Camp Turel to the blacks of St Domingue:
Brothers and friends, I am Toussaint Louverture; perhaps my name has made itself known to you. I have undertaken vengeance. I want Liberty and Equality to reign in St Domingue. I am working to make that happen. Unite yourselves to us, brothers and fight with us for the same cause.

Motto: In Union is Strength, detail from back of banknote

Your very humble and obedient servant, Toussaint Louverture,

 

detail from back of banknote, Phrygian Cap – symbol of liberty, mounted above a Royal Palm.

He gave nominal allegiance to France while pursuing his own political and military designs, initially seeking better lives for slaves, but soon afterwards seeking full abolition and independence.  As the French revolution raged on, slavery was abolished by French decree, but was resisted by the French island colonists.  Continuing revolts were led by Tourissant and, in May 1801, he had had become “governor-general for life.” With the conclusion of the French Revolution, Napoléon Bonaparte came to power and attempted to regain control over the colony including the reinstitution of slavery.   Toussaint continued the resistance, and, by 1803, Napoleon, preoccupied with Europe, was ready to surrender Haiti.  Napoleon and Toussaint agreed to terms of peace; Napoleon agreeing to recognize Haitian independence and Toussaint agreeing to retire from public life.  But Napoleon betrayed him, captured him and had him executed in exile in 1803.  Others continued the struggle, and Haiti achieved independence the following year, 1804.

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From Wikipedia, more here:

“On August 29, 1954, the Haitian ambassador to France, Léon Thébaud, inaugurated a stone cross memorial for Toussaint Louverture at the foot of the fort. Years afterward, the French government ceremoniously presented a shovelful of soil from the grounds of Fort-de-Joux to the Haitian government as a symbolic transfer of Toussaint Louverture’s remains. An inscription in his memory, installed in 1998, can be found on the wall of the Panthéon in Paris, inscribed with the following description:

Combattant de la liberté, artisan de l’abolition de l’esclavage, héros haïtien mort déporté au Fort-de-Joux en 1803.
(Combatant for liberty, artisan of the abolition of slavery, Haitian hero died in deportation at Fort-de-Joux in 1803.)

Toussaint Louverture influenced John Brown to invade Harpers Ferry. John Brown and his band captured citizens, and for a small time the federal armory and arsenal. Brown’s goal was that the local slave population would join the raid. But things did not go as planned. He was eventually captured and put on trial, and was hanged on December 2, 1859. Brown and his band of brothers shows the devotion to the violent tactics of the Haitian Revolution. During the 19th century African Americans used Toussaint Louverture as an example of how to reach freedom.”

A interesting graphic, illustrating the magnitude of the slavery of the era, can be found illustrated here, an interactive designed and built by Andrew Kahn, and published in Slate Magazine.

 

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Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas, Island Nations

Bahamas – The Beautiful

detail from front of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.
front of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

The Bahamas issued a beautiful banknote commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus setting foot in the New World, which happened to be, The Bahamas.

 

 

 

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.
back of of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

In this map of The Bahamas on the left, the island group is shown, and the individual island, San Salvador, is labeled. San Salvador is the island accepted by preponderance of scholarship as the island upon which Columbus first set foot October 12, 1994.

 

 

 

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

It was morning.  And we might imagine the sun rising distant and glorious, illuminating the paradise before those three little sailing ships.  It was October 12, 1492, Friday according to our reckoning.  Christopher Columbus climbed down from the Santa Maria, into a little excursion boat, rowed the short distance to the little island, and stepped ashore.

This pre-Industrial Age, pre-Age of Enlightenment, pre-Scientific Revolution, pre-Reformation, Admiral, armored and weaponed, with his fleet of three ships anchored behind him, and the monarchy of Spain behind them, stood before a handful of curious and naked inhabitants of Guanahani, for so they called their island home.

I cannot imagine a more fateful meeting in world history.

The record of this first day ashore is reproduced below.

 

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

To be sure, the Bahamas are very beautiful islands.   Columbus reports seeing only parrots on his first venture.  And these parrots are beautiful as illustrated here on our banknote.

These parrots live in there island nations of the Caribbean Sea; the Bahamas and Cuba and the Cayman Islands.  Leucocephala Bahamensis are also known as the Cuban Parrot and the Rose Throated Parrot.

These beautiful birds gather in gorgeous flocks during the Winter, and then disperse into mating pairs from March to September.

 

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

Phoenicopterus Ruber, or, the American Flamingo, is also known as the Caribbean flamingo, although it lives also in the Galapagos islands in the Pacific ocean. It is the only species of flamingo native to North America.

This beautiful bird grows to 4 feet or 5 feet tall and lives for 40 years, one of the longest life spans in the kingdom of fliers.

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

Our Cylura Rileyi, or San Salvador Rock Iquana lives on three island groups in The Bahamas.  Our iguana grows to about 15 inches long and can be very colorful with colors varying from subspecies to subspecies and among individuals in a subspecies.

 

detail from back of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

The Coat of Arms of The Bahamas has a shield at center with the shining sun over the Santa Maria , the sailing ship of Columbus.  Overhead is a conch shell brimmed with five palm fronds.  To the left is a marlin and to the right is a flamingo, the national wildlife of the Bahamas illustrating its island nature.

 

 

 

The following is the record of October 11 and 12, 1492, from the Journals of Christopher Columbus:

detail from front of 1 dollar (1992) commemorative banknote, The Bahamas.

Thursday, 11 October. Steered west-southwest; and encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the whole voyage. Saw pardelas and a green rush near the vessel. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log; they also picked up a stick which appeared to have been carved with an iron tool, a piece of cane, a plant which grows on land, and a board. The crew of the Nina saw other signs of land, and a stalk loaded with rose berries. These signs encouraged them, and they all grew cheerful. Sailed this day till sunset, twenty-seven leagues.

After sunset steered their original course west and sailed twelve miles an hour till two hours after midnight, going ninety miles, which are twenty-two leagues and a half; and as the Pinta was the swiftest sailer, and kept ahead of the Admiral, she discovered land and made the signals which had been ordered. The land was first seen by a sailor called Rodrigo de Triana, although the Admiral at ten o’clock that evening standing on the quarter-deck saw a light, but so small a body that he could not affirm it to be land; calling to Pero Gutierrez, groom of the King’s wardrobe, he told him he saw a light, and bid him look that way, which he did and saw it; he did the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the squadron as comptroller, but he was unable to see it from his situation. The Admiral again perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a wax candle moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land. But the Admiral held it for certain that land was near; for which reason, after they had said the Salve which the seamen are accustomed to repeat and chant after their fashion, the Admiral directed them to keep a strict watch upon the forecastle and look out diligently for land, and to him who should first discover it he promised a silken jacket, besides the reward which the King and Queen had offered, which was an annuity of ten thousand maravedis.

At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani.

Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits.

The Admiral called upon the two Captains, and the rest of the crew who landed, as also to Rodrigo de Escovedo notary of the fleet, and Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, to bear witness that he before all others took possession (as in fact he did) of that island for the King and Queen his sovereigns, making the requisite declarations, which are more at large set down here in writing.

Numbers of the people of the island straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us.

Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.” These are the words of the Admiral.

 

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