woensdag 4 juli 2018

Kakatua or cockatoo as a bird of peace

East Indonesia has since long been known for its exotic birds. Around 1900 the feathers of the birds of paradise were very popular worldwide. Hunters came to Papua to chase the birds. They brought the venereal diseases in the Merauke district. This was nearly the cause of the extinction of the Marind tribe and a great stimulus for the spread of the Catholic mission and its strict moral teaching. I described this in the second volume of my Catholics in Indonesia, 1808-1942.
The cockatoo (or kakak tua in Malay/Indonesian) is less colourful than the paradise bird, but since many centuries also known as an attractive bird, used as a gift donated by rulers to other rulers. Recently an early 13th century manuscript has been discovered in the Vatican archives, showing a cockatoo that was donated by the Egyptian Ayyubid Sultan Al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil (ruled 1218-1238) to Frederic II of Sicily (1194-1250), who also was the emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire of Central Europe. Frederic II was an open minded ruler with many Muslims in his own island of Sicily. Already in 1217 he had began a correspondence with Al-Malik al-Kamil on many subjects. Exotic animals were among the things he loved. In his palace he had some kind of a zoo with a cheeta, an elephant, a giraffe, and apparently as a gift from Egypt also a cockatoo. This animal was donated to him by his Egyptian friend and colleague.

The Australian scholar Heather Dalton has with some colleagues published an article in the journal Parergon, and described the text. She concludes that there must have been an economic and cultural exchange between the major empires of the world (China, India, the Arab world, Europe) where also East Indonesia and perhaps even Australia was involved.
The lover of animals, Saint Francis of Assisi visited the Ayyubid court in 1219, exactly at the time of this connection between Frederic II and the Sultan while the 4th crusade was still going on: they lived in a strange world, with people preaching war between religions and lovers of peace, like in our time!

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