The UGM Spice Cosmopolis team, the Yogyakarta Office of Culture, and the UGM Faculty of Cultural Sciences dissected a book crafted by history lecturer Dr. Sri Margana called “Arung Samudera Nusantara and Kosmopolis Rempah” (Nusantara Seafarers and the Spice Cosmopolis) on Wednesday, November 22.
The book discussion featured Dr. Sri Margana; Dr. Widya Fitria Ningsih, a history lecturer at the UGM Faculty of Cultural Sciences; Professor M. Baiquni, a professor of development geography at the UGM Faculty of Geography; Professor Sri Gardjito, a spice expert from the UGM Faculty of Agricultural Technology; and Professor Mustofa, a professor of pharmacology and therapy at the UGM Faculty of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing.
The author said the book “Arung Samudera Nusantara and Kosmopolis Rempah” is a response to the Indonesian government’s efforts to propose spice routes as a world heritage, as well as a reaction to the formation of the UGM Spice Cosmopolis Research Unit.
“Why not use the name Spice Routes? If we refer to the spice routes proposed in the heritage proposals, especially related to heritage and history that UNESCO recognizes, they are all colonial products. So, all these heritages are evidence of imperialism and colonialism in Indonesia,” he said at the UGM Faculty of Cultural Sciences.
According to Dr. Margana, it’s not Indonesia’s spice route but the Europeans’ spice route during the Europeans in Indonesia. The spice route of the Europeans was the route of the colonizers who came to the archipelago–the path for the formation of colonization in Indonesia.
“So, if it is to be made a world heritage, it is not quite right. Indonesia’s potential for spices is not in the route; we have not the spice route but the spices themselves or spice culture,” he explained.
The spice culture built by Indonesian society is a local wisdom of Indonesia that has utilized spices for various purposes, is enjoyed by the world, and is spread across the globe.
“So, in my opinion, Indonesia contributes to spices in the creation of spice culture. What is spice culture? It is a culture that uses spices for health, culinary, beauty, and others,” he explained.
Dr. Widya Ningsih said that spices are luxury goods that are an entry point for the outside world to enter the archipelago. Researching spices led to the discovery that before the arrival of foreigners (long before the Christian era), sailing had been done by Nusantara sailors.
“But everything then stopped because later, foreign nations came to the archipelago and were invited by spices. So, the importance of spices here is enormous,” Dr. Ningsih said.
She assessed that the book “Arung Samudera Nusantara and Kosmopolis Rempah” has at least tried to use several local sources. These sources are considered worthy of identification, tracing, and further study.
She believes that efforts like this will lead to a more diverse narrative, such as tracing oral traditions (rituals, songs, poems), histories, recipes, and others.
Professor Baiquni considered the book “Arung Samudera Nusantara and Kosmopolis Rempah” to have a relatively strong historical and geographical perspective, where the book shows the history of human interaction and its environment.
Also, the interaction between one region and other regions and the existence of trade exchanges accompanied by the ebb and flow of civilization are interesting to explore from historical, geographical, and cultural perspectives.
“I appreciate the successful compilation of this book, which requires precision, perseverance, and thoroughness. This book could not have reached this stage without diligence, thoroughness, and toughness. With the publication of this book, it shows the character of a historian with high endurance,” Professor Baiquni said.
Professor Sri Gardjito stated that if Indonesian food is calculated, there are more than 3000 types of food. Many historical records are related to this food, but unfortunately, efforts to find historical sources have encountered obstacles.
“From there, I realized that history is significant because it is the root of all problems, and in the wilderness of gastronomy, I found the importance of spices. After reading this book, I feel at ease,” Professor Gardjito added.
Author: Agung Nugroho