What You Need To Know

Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, is an island in Indonesia. One of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and the world’s eleventh-largest island, it is situated east of Borneo, west of the Maluku Islands, and south of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. Within Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger populations.

The landmass of Sulawesi includes four peninsulas: the northern Minahasa Peninsula; the East Peninsula; the South Peninsula; and the South-east Peninsula. Three gulfs separate these peninsulas: the Gulf of Tomini between the northern Minahasa and East peninsulas; the Tolo Gulf between the East and Southeast peninsulas; and the Bone Gulf between the South and Southeast peninsulas. The Strait of Makassar runs along the western side of the island and separates the island from Borneo.

Population

The 2000 census population of the provinces of Sulawesi was 14,946,488, about 7.25% of Indonesia’s total population. By the 2010 Census the total had reached 17,371,782, and the latest official estimate (for January 2014) is 18,455,058. The largest city is Makassar.

Language

Not all the languages of Sulawesi belong to the Sunda–Sulawesi (Inner Hesperonesian) clade. The twenty languages of the northern peninsula of Sulawesi and neighboring islands to the north are instead part of the Borneo–Philippines branch (Outer Hesperonesian).

More than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia. Most belong to the Austronesian language family, with a few Papuan languages also spoken. The official language is Indonesian (locally known as Bahasa Indonesia), a variant of Malay, which was used in the archipelago, borrowing heavily from local languages of Indonesia such as Javanese, Sundanese and Minangkabau. The Indonesian language is primarily used in commerce, administration, education and the media, but most Indonesians speak other languages, such as Javanese, as their first language. Most books printed in Indonesia are written in the Indonesian language.

Since Indonesia recognises only a single official language, other languages are not recognised either at the national level or the regional level, thus making Javanese the most widely spoken language without official status, with Sundanese the second in the list (excluding Chinese dialects).

Currency

The Indonesian Rupiah is the currency of Indonesia. Our currency rankings show that the most popular Indonesia Rupiah exchange rate is the USD to IDR rate. The currency code for Rupiahs is IDR, and the currency symbol is Rp. Below, you’ll find Indonesian Rupiah rates and a currency converter.

Geography

Sulawesi is the world’s eleventh-largest island, covering an area of 174,600 km2 (67,413 sq mi). The central part of the island is ruggedly mountainous, such that the island’s peninsulas have traditionally been remote from each other, with better connections by sea than by road. The three bays that divide Sulawesi’s peninsulas are, from north to south, the Tomini, the Tolo and the Boni. These separate the Minahassa or Northern Peninsula, the East Peninsula, the Southeast Peninsula and the South Peninsula.

The Strait of Makassar runs along the western side of the island. The island is surrounded by Borneo to the west, by the Philippines to the north, by Maluku to the east, and by Flores and Timor to the south.

Minor islands

The Selayar Islands make up a peninsula stretching southwards from Southwest Sulawesi into the Flores Sea are administratively part of Sulawesi. The Sangihe Islands and Talaud Islands stretch northward from the northeastern tip of Sulawesi, while Buton Island and its neighbours lie off its southeast peninsula, the Togian Islands are in the Gulf of Tomini, and Peleng Island and Banggai Islands form a cluster between Sulawesi and Maluku. All the above-mentioned islands, and many smaller ones, are administratively part of Sulawesi’s six provinces.

Religion

Islam is the majority religion in Sulawesi. The conversion of the lowlands of the south western peninsula (South Sulawesi) to Islam occurred in the early 17th century. The kingdom of Luwu in the Gulf of Bone was the first to accept Islam in February 1605; the Makassar kingdom of Goa-Talloq, centred on the modern-day city of Makassar, followed suit in September. However, the Gorontalo and the Mongondow peoples of the northern peninsula largely converted to Islam only in the 19th century. Most Muslims are Sunnis.

Christians form a substantial minority on the island. According to the demographer Toby Alice Volkman, 17% of Sulawesi’s population is Protestant and less than 2% is Roman Catholic. Christians are concentrated on the tip of the northern peninsula around the city of Manado, which is inhabited by the Minahasa, a predominantly Protestant people, and the northernmost Sangir and Talaud Islands. The famous Toraja people of Tana Toraja in Central Sulawesi have largely converted to Christianity since Indonesia’s independence. There are also substantial numbers of Christians around Lake Poso in Central Sulawesi, among the Pamona speaking peoples of Central Sulawesi, and near Mamasa.

Though most people identify themselves as Muslims or Christians, they often subscribe to local beliefs and deities as well. It is not uncommon for both groups to make offerings to local gods, goddesses and spirits.

Smaller communities of Buddhists and Hindus are also found on Sulawesi, usually among the Chinese, Balinese and Indian communities.

Parks

The island of Sulawesi has six national parks and nineteen nature reserves. In addition, Sulawesi has three marine protected areas. Many of Sulawesi’s parks are threatened by logging, mining, and deforestation for agriculture.

History

Starting in the 13th century, access to prestige trade goods and to sources of iron started to alter long-standing cultural patterns, and to permit ambitious individuals to build larger political units. It is not known why these two ingredients appeared together; one was perhaps the product of the other.

In 1367, several identified polities, located on the island, were mentioned in the Javanese manuscript Nagarakretagama dated from theMajapahit period. Canto 14 mentioned polities including Gowa, Makassar, Luwu and Banggai. It seems that by the 14th century, polities in the island were connected in an archipelagic maritime trading network, centered in the Majapahit port in East Java. By 1400, a number of nascent agricultural principalities had arisen in the western Cenrana valley, as well as on the south coast and on the west coast near modern Parepare.

The first Europeans to visit the island (which they believed to be an archipelago due to its contorted shape) were the Portuguese sailors Simão de Abreu, in 1523, and Gomes de Sequeira (among others) in 1525, sent from the Moluccas in search of gold, which the islands had the reputation of producing.  A Portuguese base was installed in Makassar in the first decades of the 16th century, lasting until 1665, when it was taken by the Dutch. The Dutch had arrived in Sulawesi in 1605 and were quickly followed by the English, who established a factory in Makassar. From 1660, the Dutch were at war with Gowa, the major Makasar west coast power. In 1669, Admiral Speelman forced the ruler, Sultan Hasanuddin, to sign the Treaty of Bongaya, which handed control of trade to the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were aided in their conquest by the Bugis warlord Arung Palakka, ruler of the Bugis kingdom of Bone. The Dutch built a fort at Ujung Pandang, while Arung Palakka became the regional overlord and Bone the dominant kingdom. Political and cultural development seems to have slowed as a result of the status quo.

In 1905 the entire island became part of the Dutch state colony of the Netherlands East Indies until Japanese occupation in the Second World War. During the Indonesian National Revolution, the Dutch Captain ‘Turk’ Westerling led campaigns in which hundreds, maybe thousands died during the South Sulawesi Campaign. Following the transfer of sovereignty in December 1949, Sulawesi became part of the federal United States of Indonesia, which in 1950 became absorbed into the unitary Republic of Indonesia.

Central Sulawesi

The Portuguese were rumoured to have a fort in Parigi in 1555. The Kaili were an important group based in the Palu valley and related to the Toraja. Scholars relate that their control swayed under Ternate and Makassar, but this might have been a decision by the Dutch to give their vassals a chance to govern a difficult group. Padbruge commented that in the 1700s Kaili numbers were significant and a highly militant society. In the 1850s a war erupted between the Kaili groups, including the Banawa, in which the Dutch decided to intervene. A complex conflict also involving the Sulu Island pirates and probably Wyndham (a British merchant who commented on being involved in arms dealing to the area in this period and causing a row).

In the late 19th century the Sarasins journeyed through the Palu valley as part of a major initiative to bring the Kaili under Dutch rule. Some very surprising and interesting photographs were taken of shamans called Tadulako. Further Christian religious missions entered the area to make one of the most detailed ethnographic studies in the early 20th century. A Swede by the name of Walter Kaudern later studied much of the literature and produced a synthesis. Erskine Downs in the 1950s produced a summary of Kruyts and Andrianis work: “The religion of the Bare’e-Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes,” which is invaluable for English-speaking researchers. One of the most recent publications is “When the bones are left,” a study of the material culture of central Sulawesi, offering extensive analysis. Also worthy of study are the brilliant works of Monnig Atkinson on the Wana shamans who live in the Mori area.

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