Indonesia and Africa in Pre-Islamic times

Robert Dick-Read

At about the time delegates were gathering for the first Bandung Conference in 1955, I was cracking the shell of a fertile egg that has been a major focus of interest in my life ever since. At the time, I had a 'duka' in the Fort Jesus Road in Mombasa, from where I ran a small business dealing in African arts and crafts. From my Mombasa base, whenever it was feasible, I made forays into the countryside to build up my stock, and find new suppliers of interesting work. One such journey took me to northern Mozambique, and it was there, on the coast, that I first heard stories of times long ago when flotillas of boats would descend upon the Mozambique coast from Madagascar to wreak havoc in the 'shambas' of the Makua, and capture slaves to take back to The Geat Isle ...escapades that continued into the early part of the 19th century.

Like most people in Africa at that time I knew absolutely nothing about Madagascar, and was amazed when I discovered that much of the island's culture was of Indonesian origin, and that the people spoke a language that was structurally more similar to that od Easter Island 14,000 miles away in the Pacific than it was to the languages of Africa a mere 250 miles to the west.

For a host of reasons I closed my arts and crafts shop after a couple of years. But since those happy days I have dug deep into whatever materials I have been able to find concerning ancient economic and cultural ties between Africa and Southeast Asia. And in my retirement these studies finally culminated in the publication in 2005 of my book 'The Phantom Voyagers - Evidence of Indonesian Settlement in Africa in Ancient Times'.