Kai Islands

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

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Geography

The islands are south of the Bird's Head Peninsula of Papua, west of the Aru Islands, and northeast of the Tanimbar Islands. The Kai islands are made up of numerous islands, including Kai Besar (Great Kai), Kai Kecil (Little Kai) and Kai Dulah, and the Kur, Tam and Tayandu island groups. The Kai Islands' total land area is 1438 km² (555 sq mi). Kai Besar is mountainous and densely forested.

The Kai 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 Kai Islands have few native mammals.

History

Local history holds that ancestors of contemporary Kai islanders came from Bali, part of the expanding Majapahit kingdom from the western archipelago. The village of Letvuan on Kei Kecil was the first place that the royal family and the army arived, where they stayed with the local residents. As a result, Letvuan became a seat of government, where the local law (Lawur Ngabal) is developed. Evidence of these ties on Kei Kecil and especially in Letvuan include an inheritance and a harbour named Bal Surbay (Bali Surabaya) that is the place where the royals arrived.

Languages

Three Austronesian languages are spoken on the Kai Islands; Kei is the most widely spoken, in 207 villages on Kei Kecil, Kei Besar, and surrounding islands. Kur is spoken on Kur Island and nearby islands, where Kei is used as a lingua franca. Banda is spoken in the villages of Banda-Eli and Banda-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.

See also

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