Makassar City

Makassar sometimes spelled Macassar, Mangkasara’ – is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is the largest city on Sulawesi Island in terms of population number and the fifth largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, and Medan. From 1971 to 1999, the city was named Ujung Pandang, after a pre-colonial fort in the city, and the two names are often used interchangeably. The port city is located on the southwest coast of the island of Sulawesi, facing the Makassar Strait.

The city’s area is 19,926 square kilometers (7,693 sq mi) and it had a population of around 1.6 million in 2013. Its official metropolitan area, known as Mamminasata, covers an area of 2,473 square kilometers (955 sq mi) and had a population of around 2.5 million at the 2010 Census.

History of Makassar

Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassar kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city, and rejecting the attempts of the Dutch to establish a monopoly over the city.

The trade in spices figured prominently in the history of Sulawesi, which involved frequent struggles between rival native and foreign powers for control of the lucrative during the pre-colonial and colonial period, when spices from the region were in high demand in the West. Much of South Sulawesi’s early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

Further, tolerant religious attitudes meant that even as Islam became the dominant faith in the region, Christians and others were still able to trade in the city. With these attractions, Makassar was a key center for Malays working in the spice trade, as well as a valuable base for European and Arab traders from much further afield.

The first European settlers were the Portuguese sailors. When the Portuguese reached Sulawesi in 1511, they found Makassar a thriving cosmopolitan entre-port where Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Siamese, Javanese, and Malays came to trade their manufactured metal goods and textiles for pearls, gold, copper, camphor and spices – nutmeg, cloves and mace imported from the interior and the neighboring Spice Islands of Maluku. By the 16th century, Makassar had become Sulawesi’s major port and centre of the powerful Gowa and Tallo sultanates which between them had a series of 11 fortresses and strongholds and a fortified sea wall which extended along the coast. Portuguese rulers called the city Macáçar.

The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century altered events dramatically. They finally replaced the Portuguese as colonial masters in 1667. Their first objective was to create a hegemony over the spice trade and their first move was to capture the fort of Makassar in 1667, which they rebuilt and renamed Fort Rotterdam. From this base they managed to destroy the strongholds of the Sultan of Gowa who was then forced to live on the outskirts of Makassar. Following the Java War (1825–1830), Prince Diponegoro was exiled to Fort Rotterdam until his death in 1855.
The character of this old trading centre changed as a walled city known as Vlaardingen grew. Gradually, in defiance of the Dutch, the Arabs, Malays and Buddhist returned to trade outside the fortress walls and later also the Chinese.

The town again became a collecting point for the produce of eastern Indonesia – the copra, rattan, pearls, trepang and sandalwood and the famous oil made from bado nuts used in Europe as girl’s hair dressing – hence the anti-macassars (embroidered cloths placed at head rests of upholstered chairs).

Although the Dutch controlled the coast, it was not until the early 20th century that they gained power over the interior of the south through a series of treaties with local rulers. Meanwhile, Dutch missionaries converted many of the Toraja people to Christianity. By 1938, the population of Makassar had reached around 84,000 – a town described by writer Joseph Conrad as “the prettiest and perhaps, cleanest looking of all the towns in the islands”.

In World War II the Makassar area was defended by approximately 1000 men of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army commanded by Colonel M. Vooren. He decided that he could not defend on the coast and was planning to fight a guerrilla war inland. The Japanese landed near Makassar on 9 February 1942. The defenders retreated but were soon overtaken and captured.

Following the Indonesian National Revolution in 1950, Makassar was the site of fighting between pro-Federalist forces under Captain Abdul Assiz and Republican forces under Colonel Sunkono during the Makassar Uprising.By the 1950s, the population had increased to such a degree that many of the historic sites gave way to modern development and today one needs to look very carefully to find the few remains of the city’s once grand history.

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