A Tale of Two Islands

Rhunhattan: A Tale of Two Islands (Work in Progress)

is a journey back in time to explore a pivotal moment in world history: the trade of Manhattan island. Walking in the footsteps of explorers, viewers uncover stories hidden just below the surface and learn how a tiny seed ignited global trade and transformed our world forever.

Fort Nassau on Banda Naira, Banda Islands, Maluku Islands.

Fort Nassau on Banda Naira, Banda Islands, Maluku Islands.

Rhunhattan is a roomscale multisensory experience that developed out of research into food-ways, plant based histories, travel and international commerce. Sprouting from the age of exploration when countless caravans and ships spun the wheel of fortune in search for spices worth their weight in gold, the experience opens a window into the cultural and economic circulations between archipelagos and continents and reveals the historical weight of nutmegs.

The experience will bring forth shared histories and intertwined realities of two islands on the opposite ends of the world in much of the same way the researchers uncovered the information. Working backwards, told through the voices of locals and seen through the landscape of what exists today, we uncover buried stories of European colonial expansion, trade and the making of globalization, as well as the unheard voices of the indigenous peoples who saw a New World created where they stood.


In 1667, the world map was redrawn when the Dutch traded the island of Manhattan for the English colony of Rhun, in Indonesia, in attempts to corner the nutmeg trade. This momentous land exchange, over spices, seeded change that set in motion unstoppable waves of displacements, migrations, and laid the ground for economic systems that shape our lives to this day. Rhunhattan peels back the layers of history, starting in the present, and guides the viewer back in time through interactive clues hidden in plain sight.

Rhunhattan places viewers onto the present day islands of Rhun and Manhattan where a global treasure map is embedded in the surroundings … if only we could decipher the signs. Immersed in the sights and sounds, elements of the environment come alive to guide viewers back in time. From forts and ports, to trees and seeds, these “island guides” tell stories and recite poems offering visitors a magical way to engage with the past in order to understand our present.

Visitors will be presented with a map and a key upon arrival. The key serves as a way to navigate, explore various chapters within the larger story, and allow the viewer to control the journey. The key will be composed of a set of symbols, which are significant to the perspective they each reveal, and are a manageable way for viewers to interact with a new information. When a symbol is activated, it unlocks the stories and histories of a particular theme or perspective such as:

·Five Pointed Fort: Uncovers stories related to military control, domination,  struggle, architecture and borders.

·Nutmeg: Uncovers the history of native plants, food systems, cultivation, and trade.

·Colonial Helmet: Explores the stories of immigrants, colonizers, travelers and the goods, ideas, diseases and languages they exchanged.

·Indigenous Totem: Explores the life and roles of the native peoples of the islands, their interactions with the European settlers, and their perspectives on the transformation of their island into global centers of trade.

Pulau Rhun, Banda Islands, Maluku Islands.

Pulau Rhun, Banda Islands, Maluku Islands.

Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, NYC, USA

Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, NYC, USA


Rhunhattan s an immersive experience intended to heighten public awareness on lesser known global interconnections. It is intended for audience seeking cultural and educational content to supplement what they already know about history, travel, and culture of South East Asia and NYC. High school aged youth and older. Ideal venues to showcase the experience may include schools, museums, festivals, and art galleries.


The interactive VR experience integrates 360° and 2D videos (archival imagery & new works) into an immersive environment. The VR experience is compatible with Android VR headsets, including Samsung Gear VR headsets. Development gears include Panasonic Lumix Cameras, Samsung Gear 360, Adobe Suite, Autopano Video Pro, Mistika VR and Wonda VR.


We are connected to extensive research resources including Lenape and Bandanese native culture bearers, community stakeholders, scholars, activists, artists and ecologists to create a historically palpable and ethically accountable digital storytelling project.


In 2016-17 New York University, Asian/Pacific/American Institute generously supported the preliminary travel and research to Indonesia as well as the community engagement with Lenape culture bearers via a one-year art residency.

Beatrice Glow returned from Rhun, a volcanic Indonesian island in the Banda Sea, to present her final public program as the A/P/A Institute Artist-in-Residence. During her residency, Glow investigated the social history of plants via spice routes and botanical expeditions, focusing on the historical relationship between two islands on opposite sites of the world: Mannahatta and Rhun.