Kai Islands

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Kai Islands
Topographic map of the Kai Islands-en.svg
ID Kai islands.PNG
Location South-east Asia
Coordinates 5°45′S 132°44′E / 5.75°S 132.73°E / -5.75; 132.73
Major islands Kai Besar, Kai Kecil
Area 1,438 km2 (555 sq mi)
Province Maluku
Kai Islands in the east of Maluku Islands

The Kai Islands (also Kei Islands) of Indonesia are in the south-eastern part of the Maluku Islands, in Maluku Province.


The islands comprise the Maluku Tenggara (Southeast Maluku) Regency within the Maluku Province. The Regency (which excludes the city of Tual) is sub-divided into 6 districts (kecamatan).


Inhabitants called the islands Nuhu Evav (Evav Islands) or Tanat Evav (Evav Land), but known as Kei for people from neighbourhood islands. "Kai" is actually a Dutch colonial era spelling, still persisting in books based on old resources. The islands are on the edge of the Banda Sea, south of the Bird's Head Peninsula of New Guinea, west of the Aru Islands, and northeast of the Tanimbar Islands. The small group called Tayandu Islands (also Tahayad) is just west.

The Kei islands are made up of numerous islands, including

  • Kai Besar or Nuhu Yuut or Nusteen (Great Kei)
  • Kai Kecil or Nuhu Roa or Nusyanat (Little Kei)
  • Tanimbar Kei or Tnebar Evav
  • Kei Dulah or Du
  • Dulah Laut or Du Roa
  • Kuur
  • Taam
  • Tayandu Islands (Tahayad) groups.

The Kei Islands' total land area is 1438 km² (555 sq mi).

Kei Besar is mountainous and densely forested. Kei Kecil has the biggest population, and is flat. Actually it is a lifted coral reef. The capital is the town of Tual, mostly inhabited by Muslims. Nearby Langgur is the center for Christians. Kei is famous for the beauty of its beaches, e.g. Pasir Panjang.

The Kei islands are part of Wallacea, the group of Indonesian islands that are separated by deep water from both the Asian and Australian continental shelves, and were never linked to either continent. As a result, the Kei Islands have few native mammals and are part of the Banda Sea Islands moist deciduous forests ecoregion.


Local history holds that ancestors of contemporary Kei islanders came from Bali, part of the expanding Majapahit kingdom from the western archipelago. The village of Ohoi-Ewur ( first Raja Ewab : Raja Ohoi-Ewur = Raja Tabtut) on Kei Kecil or Nuhuroa island was the first place that the Balinese royal family and the army arrived, where they stayed with the local residents. As a result, Ohoi-ewur became a seat of government, where the local law (Larvul Ngabal) – Red Blood and Balinese Spear – was developed at the initiative of the royal princess Dit Sakmas. Evidence of these ties on Kei Kecil and especially in Letvuan include an inheritance and a harbour named Bal Sorbay (Bali Surabaya) that is the place where the royals arrived. It is recognized by kai islanders that some of their ancestors also came from another places such as Sumbawa island (Sumbau), Buton (Vutun)in Sulawesi, Seram (Seran) and Gorom (Ngoran) islands in the Central Moluccas, and the Sultanates of Jailolo (Dalo) and Ternate (Ternat) as well.

The tiny island of Tanimbarkei is not part of Tanimbar, but of the Kei Islands and inhabited by fewer than 1000 very traditional people. Half of the population call themselves Hindus, but in fact are more or less practising ancestor worship.

After the 1999 clashes between the Muslim and Christian populations in Ambon, similar intercommunal clashes also swept through Kei, but quickly calmed down with fewer victims. The islands depend on 22 ratshcaap, or traditional local leaders called Rat or Raja, as kings of customary law.


The soil on Kei Kecil is poor. Slash and Burn agriculture is still common. Fishing is engaged in around Trepang. In Kei Kecil cultured pearl is harvested.


Three Austronesian languages are spoken on the Kei Islands; Keiese is the most widely spoken, in 207 villages on Kei Kecil, Kei Besar, and surrounding islands. Kurese is spoken on Kur Island and nearby Kaimeer, where Kei is used as a lingua franca. Bandanese is spoken in the villages of Banda-Eli (Wadan El) and Banda-Elat (Wadan Elat) on the west and northeastern side of Kei Besar. Banda speakers originally came from the Banda Islands, but the language is no longer spoken there. There is no native writing system for the Keiese Language. Dutch Catholic missionaries write the language using a variation of the Roman alphabet.


  • Fel be / Fel be he : hello, how are you?
  • Bok át / Bok bok wat: I'm fine

Musical instruments[edit]

Kei musical instruments were:-

1) Savarngil (Flute): A small native flute from 10 to 20 centimetres (4 to 8 in) long, open at both ends and having six fingerholes placed along the pipe made of bamboo and are keyless.

2) Tiva (Drum):Single headed drums, consist of a calf skin membrane which is stretched over an enclosed space or over one of the ends of a hollow vessel.

3) Dada (Gong):a medium-size gong 30 to 38 centimetres (12 to 15 in) in size, with a crashing sound, have a raised boss or nipple in the centre.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]