Friday, June 08, 2018


The Tongan polymath Futa Helu dreamed of creating a space where the ideas & cultures of Greece & the Pacific could dialogue as equals, and learn from one another. But is it possible such a dialogue had already occurred, many centuries ago, on the high seas? Waruno Mahdi thinks so.
I'm grateful to Lorenz Gonschor, the brilliant German scholar who has been teaching for a few months at 'Atenisi, the school Futa Helu founded, for introducing me to the work of Waruno Mahdi, an Indonesian authority on the history of words, ships, navigation, and cultural diffusion.
We in the South Pacific are used to the idea that Austronesian peoples expanded eastwards, from Taiwan all the way to Rapa Nui, Hawai'i, and South America. But Waruno Mahdi's research helps to show that Austronesians also made epic voyages and established societies in the west.
In a long, learned essay that teems with astonishing details, Mahdi argues that the Austronesians established colonies in India, sailed up the Ganges, had a presence on Africa's East Coast, & even entered a text by Pliny, disguised as Ethiopians.
In the most extraordinary part of his text, Mahdi argues, using his knowledge of linguistics, navigation, and ships, that Austronesian and Mediterranean sailors encountered each other somewhere in the Indian Ocean, & influenced each other's aquatechnology. Futa Helu would be delighted!


Blogger Richard said...

An interesting theory. Futa Helu was a find in himself Maps!

2:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remarkable man...

12:44 pm  

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