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October 25 2013

VIDEO: “Myths and Murals” of East Timor

East Timorese and Australian artists have come together to reflect and create around Myths and Murals, ”promoting a common sense of national identity through art and story and collaborative strategies for engagement”.

The cross-cultural public art and literacy project, between artists from Melbourne and the East Timorese free art school Arte Moris, takes on the well-known legend of the creation of East Timor, The Boy and the Crocodile, to create a series of murals throughout the territory, as the synopsis of the project explains:

13 murals will be painted in public locations in each of the 13 districts of East Timor. The murals will leave unique cultural heritage for cultural tourism and serve as a symbolic reminder of East Timor's shared identity and the spirit of collaboration. Using The Boy and the Crocodile in a workshop environment, artists from East Timor's free art school, Arte Moris, lead students through the visualisation of their region’s myths. Students and teachers then collaborate on painting these stories.

September 09 2013

East Timor: “Literacy Often Falls by the Way Side”

“East Timor waiting for school to start”, Same (06/09/2010). Photo by john.hession on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Marking the International Literacy Day, September 8, The Asia Foundation's blog, In Asia presents striking numbers on the quality of educational outcomes in Timor-Leste, a country where “education, and literacy in particular, too often falls by the wayside”:

World Bank research found that 70 percent of first grade students in Timor-Leste were unable to read a single word of a simple text passage randomly selected in either of the country’s official languages, Portuguese or Tetun.

The Silent Crisis in Timor-Leste’s Development Trajectory‘ by The Asia Foundation's Country Representative in Timor-Leste, Susan Marx, and Mário F. Costa Pinhero, stresses the ongoing debate on the language policy of Asia’s youngest nation. As Global Voices reported back in 2011, the number of national languages is up to 16 and dozens of other dialects are used on a daily basis by Timorese citizens. The article addresses progress and hindrance to government's strategies, and states that “a more fundamental challenge lies in the overwhelming lack of a reading culture“.



August 21 2013

VIDEO: “Mermaids of Timor-Leste”

“The making of WAWATA TOPU #35 -
Walking the sea.” Photo by Nuno Da Silva.

A film about four generations of fisherwomen striving to make a living in the coastal village of Adara, in the small island of Ataúro, Timor-Leste is soon to be released - but you can already have a glimpse on what is coming at the Facebook page Wawata topu (Women Divers):

Their daily lives, their economic practices and their vital concerns, as well as the contradicting discourses and social barriers they face, are shown in this ethnographic portrait that makes visible their critical contribution to the household economies and the fishing community at large. Their underwater dancing takes place in a context of rapid social change, where the generalization of the formal education, the progressive consolidation of western moral values and the potential openness of more attractive livelihoods not linked to the sea, seem to be forging a social negotiation of the household economic strategies initiated by the oldest generation during the 50´s.

Have a look at the trailer of Wawata Topu, by David Palazón and Enrique Alonso:

The Facebook page gathers several photos and videos of the making of, including the screening of the work in progress at the Adara village on June 1, 2013.

April 02 2013

Foreign Investment Sidelines East Timorese

Olavio Quintas, from the eastern tip of Timor, expresses his frustration with “development” in his country to Radio Liberdade Dili. He says “Timorese people have become observers to foreigners’ investments” lamenting the lack of employment for young people, as investors and government do not trust Timorese to do the smallest tasks.

August 12 2012

East Timor: Marathoner Captures London Hearts

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Young marathoner Augusto Soares, 25, captured the hearts of the Olympic marathon audience with his perseverance and good humor. He competed in Beijing four years ago, but did not finish, so this time around his goal was to finish the race.

Much of the competition he was at the tail end; there was the sense that his smiling run was one of the closing moments of London 2012 Olympics. (He came in second to last with a time of 2:45:09.)

Augusto Soares of East Timor waves to the enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets of London Wall and Barbican. Photo by Richard Soans copyright Demotix (12/08/2012)

Augusto Soares of East Timor waves to the enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets of London Wall and Barbican. Photo by Richard Soans copyright Demotix (12/08/2012)

Annie Martin tweeted

The Olympic Marathon is brilliant, am waving my flags outside Monument. Love the straggler from Timor Leste beaming from ear to ear!

Chris Spillane tweeted

My favourite Olympian. Soares of East Timor in last place in the Men's Marathon. True Olympic spirit

Youtube user Marwat86 captured the cheering for Soares as he passed on his last lap.

The UN interviewed Soares and his team mate Juventina Napoleao, who started training only two months prior to the Olympics.

Soares was interviewed by blogger Celso Oliveira. He said one of his biggest motivations was to

liu husi partisipasaun Timor nian bele mos fo’o hanoin hikas fali ba maluk Timor oan sira nebe namkari lemo lemo iha ema rain katak Timor liberdade ona no moris iha dame nia laran.

through Timor's participation be able to remind Timorese people spread out all over the world that Timor is free already and living in peace

Soares said he would love to be an example for young people and develop sports in his young nation.

Maibe, hau labele halo buat ida se wainhira hau mesak, tamba bat hotu fila fali ba ema bo’ot sira. Hau bele dehan hau hari'i klubu ida atleta barak, maibe eventu la iha sa ida mak akontese, atleta sira treino ka sira ba fali sira nia fatin. Ne’e ita atu dezenvolve desporto?

But, I can't do anything if I am on my own, because everything goes back to our leaders. I can say I [will] create one club with many athletes, but if we have no events what will happen, athletes will train or they will go home. Is that going to develop sports?

Soares talks about how he was recruited personally as a schoolboy in Balibar, a mountain village above the capital, by Timorese Olympian Aguida Amaral.

Diak. Hau konhese desportu halai ne'e primeiro liu husi mana ida naran Aguida Fatima Amaral. Iha momentu ne’e, hau sei eskola iha foho i sei hela ho pai i mae. Depois loron ida mana ne’e to’o ba iha ami nia eskola atu registu ema atu tama iha mana nia klubu naran SLB. […] Hafoin ami treino iha neba mana ne’e hare ami nebe mak halai diak oitoan entaun foti ami tun mai hela no treino iha dili.

Well. I heard about running through a woman named Aguida Fatima Amaral. At that time, I was still in school in the mountains and I still lived with my mother and father. Then one day, this Aguida came to our school to register people for her club called SLB. […] Just as we trained up there, Aguida saw that we could run pretty well and she brought us down to Dili to train.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

August 10 2012

East Timor: Women's network continues protest

Rede Feto (Women's Network) continues to protest the rejection of a woman candidate for Minister of Defense (our coverage), posting photos of women in East Timor's armed resistance on its Facebook profile and a “Declaration of Women Prisoners and Clandestine Fighters” demanding an explanation the rejection.

August 09 2012

East Timor: President Rejects Woman Defense Minister

On Monday, Tempo Semanal newspaper leaked the proposed cabinet of the new coalition government in East Timor, which included Maria Domingas Alves (known as Mikato) as Minister of Defense and Security, the highest civilian position presiding over the armed forces.

Fundasaun Mahein and news sources reported Tuesday that new President Taur Matan Ruak, himself long-time leader of the guerrilla resistance and then the independent nation's armed forces, has shown his objection to the nomination. Behind the scenes, it appears, negotiations led to the naming of Cirilo Jose Christopher in her place.

Mikato is one of East Timor's highest-profile women in politics, having presided over the Ministry of Solidarity and Social Services, during an extended crisis of internal displacement, the launch of an old-age pension and aid to veterans.

Image courtesy of Rede Feto

Image courtesy of Rede Feto

The day after these reports, Rede Feto women's network stated [tet] in a press conference that the President's suggestion that Mikato was not right for the job

Tamba ne’e ami husi movimentu feto Timor Leste hato’o deskontentimentu ba liafuan refere nebe hatu’un dignidade feto Timor leste, nomos ignora Feto sira nia kapasidade nebe hatudu ona liu husi desempenhamentu nebe halao ona durante tinan 5 hodi fo’o susesu maka’as ba governasaun AMP I

Because of this we of the women's movement in Timor Leste manifest our discontent with [the President's] words which reduce the dignity of East Timorese women, and ignore women's capacity that was well demonstrated [by Mikato] in her over five years contributing strong successes in the administration of the first coalition government.

The Women's Group of Parliament spokeswoman told the media [tet] that this episode “kills the spirit of participation among women”.

University of Timor Leste professor Matias Guilherme was interviewed by Timor Post on the issue (published [tet] on Timor Lorosae Nação blog)

Nia informa, agora ne’e presiza maka kapasidade da lideransa, la presiza nia tenki mai husi militar, Background militar maibe nia labele jere ou administra instituisaun Defesa no seguransa, ida ne’e mos sai kestaun bot ida.

He informs that what is needed now is leadership, there is no need for a military background. [Somebody] with a military background with no ability to manage or administer Defense and Security, that would be a much bigger issue.

Blog Forum Haksesuk explains [tet] that Mikato refused a subsequent offer to go back to her same ministerial post from last government, because she was “offended”, concluding that this “soap opera” lead to her “sacrifice.”

Founding the nation

Since the days of Muki Bonaparte, a founding member of East Timor's major party proposing independence, women have played a visible role in politics and national life. Rede Feto writes [tet]

Partidu Politiku rasik loke sira nia odomatan atu feto sira bele involve no organiza sira nia atividade. Organizasaun OPMT (Organizasaun Popular das Mulheres de Timor) hanesan organizasaun feto ida ne’ebe hahu sira nia atividade iha fulan Agostu 1975. […] Comite Central Fretelin (CCF) mos fo fiar ba feto ida hanaran Rosa Bonaparte Soares/Muky atu bele lidera organizasaun ida nee.

The political parties themselves opened the door for women to enter and organise their own activities. The organisation OPMT (Popular Organization of Timorese Women) was a women's organisation that started its activities in August 1975. The Central Committee of Fretilin (CCF) trusted one woman named Rosa Bonaparte Soares/Muky to lead this organisation.

Even after her martyrdom on Dili's docks with Isabel Bareto Lobato and Silvina Namuk on the Indonesian invasion in 1975, women continued to play an important role in East Timor's resistance, in all of its forms armed, clandestine and diplomatic. Clandestine activist women like Maria Goreti paid the ultimate price. Other women like Mana Bisoi (Pt) fought in the armed resistance and continue to represent women in public life.

An East Timorese woman holds up her stained finger after voting. Photo by United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

An East Timorese woman holds up her stained finger after voting. Photo by United Nations Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Australian researcher Sarah Niner wrote earlier this year on her blog

The women who fought accepted that the struggle for women’s rights was not possible during the fight for independence. However, the struggle for independence created a pool of highly skilled and motivated women who no longer accepted the status quo and today work toward equity for women.

Since independence

In governments since independence, women have held key ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice. East Timor's constituent assembly and first governments had relatively high levels of representation of women, with near 30% of parliament as women in the last parliament. This parliament has even more, with 35% women, according to the blog Forum Feto Global.

But are numbers indicative of real representation? Susan Marx wrote prior to Timorese elections this year on Asia Foundation's blog

[…] Timorese women are questioning the practicalities of participating within a historically patriarchal society. What was interesting in our research was that many of the women currently active in politics were adamant in demanding more meaningful participation. They cite the lack of women in leadership roles and decision-making positions as evidence that political parties use women’s participation only in an attempt to placate critics and to satisfy the quota requirements. Other potential candidates cited the lack of regard for women’s views within the political fray as one of the main deterrents from becoming involved themselves.

The controversy over Mikato certainly raises the question of whether Timorese male leaders perceive certain roles to be male-only in nature. Niner asserted  in March

[…] ongoing conflict, and an aggressive political culture, favours a type of strong, militarised masculinity that marginalises women, placing them in less visible ‘traditional’ roles, and has a negative effect on their status and political participation.

Facebook user Juvinal Inasio wrote publicly [tet]

La etiku liu hodi diskrimina feto hodi kaer pasta Ministra Defesa………..!!!!!!!!!! Bainhira ulun boot sira elimina Micatohusi kargu ne'e, signifika ita nia ukun nain sira la valoriza feto atu partisipa iha prosesu dezenvolvimentu nasaun…………….Ita nia ukun nain sira mesak b**** ten deit bainhira sira iha kampanha hateten sei promove jeneru……….!!!!!!!! …………..Nune'e feto sira, lalika fiar tan sira……!!!!!!!!!!

It's not ethical to discriminate against women in the Ministry of Defense cabinet position….!!!!! When the big bosses eliminated Micato from the position, it means that our leadership does not value women's participation in the process of development of the nation……. Our leaders are just liars when they campaign they say they will promote gender [equality]…..!!!! So women, don't believe them any more…!!!!!!

East Timor: Crowdmapping Humanitarian and Community Development Projects

East Timorese NGO Belun, in collaboration with FONGTIL and Fundasaun Alola, have recently launched a crowdmap platform that features a National Database of Humanitarian and Community Development Projects.

May 19 2012

East Timor: New President takes office

Taur Matan Ruak, East Timor's new president, was sworn in today, on the eve of the celebration of 10 years of independence since the UN transition from Indonesian rule. CJITL shared his inaugural speech [Tet], in which he emphasized the need to diversify the country's oil-dependent economy.

April 18 2012

East Timor: Presidential Runoff Election Accomplished With Stability

Following the presidential runoff election in East Timor, April 16, Fundasaun Mahein (a security sector watchdog) published a note on “the smooth and peaceful” ballot, celebrating the strengthening of the country's “democratization and developmental process”. According to the Electoral Management Body, Taur Matan Ruak will be the new president. The Court of Appeal has yet to proclaim the final result.

March 06 2012

East Timor: Nation loses a treasured political elder

Francisco Xavier do Amaral, known affectionately as “Avó Xavier” of “Avó Xavi” (Grandfather Xavier), succumbed to illness on Tuesday morning at the national hospital in Dili. He was 75 years old. Xavier do Amaral was a founding member of Fretilin, the political party for which he read the unilateral declaration of independence in November 1975 on the eve of the Indonesian invasion. (The Archive and Museum of the Timorese Resistance has the original document online.)

Upon hearing of his death, Facebook users reposted this video interview of him in 1975 with Australian media - here we get a sense for Xavier do Amaral's age and experience at the time, as he was older than most of the passionate, young student nationalists who formed Fretilin.

Xavier do Amaral took part in the mountain-based resistance against Indonesia until he and his supporters mostly from his home-based the mountain region of Turiscai and Maubisse, were accused of betrayal by Fretilin in 1977. (Listen to the accusations here on “East Timor Calling” radio archive of a September 1977 broadcast on the Timor Archives blog.)

Xavier do Amaral was imprisoned in the mountains only to be later captured by Indonesian soldiers and taken as a trophy prisoner to Jakarta. He returned to East Timor after Indonesia's scorched earth exit from the territory in 1999.

In 2001, he was elected to the first Constituent Assembly with his party ASDT, mostly with the devotional support of mountain people in central Timor.

View over Xavier do Amaral's region of origin, central Timor. Author's photo

While he was generally quiet politically, his influence in coalition politics in recent years is not to be discounted. At the time of his death, he was a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, for a third consecutive time.

Immediately following news of his death, Facebook user Baumali Quintao posted a public photo of Xavier do Amaral on his deathbed, generating over one hundred comments. Adeza Freitas posted a photo of the funeral car taking Xavier do Amaral back to his residential compound on the Dili sea front.

Tributes to Grandfather of the nation

Tributes are flowing in from Facebook, Twitter, on blogs and as comments on Youtube, from Cambodia, Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Japan and Portugal.

Many commenters wished Xavier do Amaral a “safe journey” to the beyond in many languages, mostly in East Timor's own official language Tetum.

Justin Amaral wrote publicly on Facebook

Husu ba Timor oan sira iha nebe deit atu reza ba ita nia avo francisco Xavier do Amaral nebe fila hikas ona ba aman maromak nia kuana.Francisco Xavier Do Amaral nudar ema ida nebe fo nia vida tomak ba rai Timor Leste […]

I ask for Timorese people to pray for our grandfather francisco Xavier do Amaral who is returning to God's side.Francisco Xavier do Amaral was a person who gave his whole life for the land of Timor Leste […]

Alzira Mota Pereira commented on a tribute posted by the Timorese Rede Feto (Women's Network)

Francisco Xavier do Amaral, nrn nebe Uniku no ema nebe brani tebes hodi kaer no ukun TL iha tempu Krize 75. “Francisco Xavier do Amaral” ita nia naran morin no Sagrada tebes mai ami Timor oan!!! Viva Proklamador, Viva avo Xavier

Francisco Xavier do Amaral, a unique name and person who was brave enough to take leadership in TL in the Crisis of 75 “Francisco Xavier do Amaral” your name is sweet and very Sacred to us Timorese people!!! Long live the Proclaimer of Independence, Long live grandfather Xavier.

Nailorotiris commented on Youtube:

His charisma, gentleness, honesty and unassuming character will be missed among world leaders.

Nug Katjasungkana wrote in Indonesian on Facebook

Berdukacita atas meninggalnya Francisco Xavier do Amaral (pejuang pembebasan rakyat Maubere, Ketua Fretilin pertama, Presiden Republik Demokratik Timor-Leste pertama, tawanan politik Pemerintan Republik Indonesia)…

Mourn the passing of Francisco Xavier do Amaral (the liberation fighter of the Maubere people Maubere, first leader of Fretilin, First President of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, the political prisoner of the Republic Of Indonesia)…

NGO Fundasun Mahein wrote on its blog in English

Our young nation has lost one of its great elders. […] since the restoration of independence, his role in our struggle for independence has never been truly and properly recognized and valued.

Xavier do Amaral's supporters are known for gathering in Dili at his residential compound. Freelance journalist Meagan Weymes described the scene there today on her blog: “family and supporters had gathered outside the home to pay their respects, singing hymns and crying”.

As the Timorese government has declared a national period of mourning until Thursday, there will doubtless be images of mourning in coming hours and days, both from the capital city but also from his mountain home.

February 24 2012

East Timor: Cats, Monsters in Pre-Election Video Humor

The presidential elections in East Timor are scheduled for March 17, 2012, and the electoral campaign [tet] period is expected to start next week, on February 29. Meanwhile, a few candidates have been using social networks for outreach, and Timorese citizens are debating the democratic process and the future of this ten year old country mostly through Facebook and blogs.

One of the most original uses of citizen media in the anticipation of the elections, however, is not serious at all - user Slogheinn on Youtube, has uploaded a series of humorous videos that mock four of the best known presidential candidates.

Such is the case of Francisco Guteres Lu-Olo, the President of the historical opposition party Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), who presented his candidacy with the highest number of undersigned proponents, 22,590. As the video plays, the mimic of “Comrade Lu Olo”, feels frustrated for being in the “shadow” of Mari Alkatiri, the Secretary-General of Fretilin. Lu Olo whines for having to run once again for president, after he headed the National Parliament of East Timor from 2002 to 2007, and was defeated in the second round when running for the presidency of the country in the 2007 presidential election:

Problema nia Alkatiri obriga mak husu ha'u ba deit ona.
Ha'u baruk sai tiha prezidenti hotu, Alkatiri mak manda nafatin ha'u hanesan uluk quandu ha'u sai prezidente Parlamento.
Ha'u hatene katak ambisaun sem capacidade ne'e crime, mais se chefe obriga ne'e ha'u tenki ba deit mesmo que laiha qualidade.
Ha'u la hatene tamba hira mak Alkatiri tenki uza ha'u conforme nia hakarak…
Dala ruma ha'u tenki marca diferensa husi nia (…)

The problem is that Alkatiri made me [do it], asking me to go, full stop.
I'm fed up with being President, Alkatiri is always ordering me just like when I became the president of the Parliament.
I know that ambition without capacity is a crime, but if the boss makes me do it, I just have to do it, even if there is no quality.
I don't know why Alkatiri has to use me as he wants to…
Sometimes I have to make a stand to differentiate from him (…)

The current President of East Timor, José Ramos Horta, whose candidacy according to Centru Jornalista Investigativu Timor Leste (CJITL) was supported by 7,977 proponents (though his website announces he has received around 116,300 petitions), is represented by a kitten in a rather catholic video approach where he recalls the assassination attempt he suffered in 2008:

Ha'u hakarak recandidata ba Prezidenti da Republica, mais ha'u tenki ba consulta lai ho amu bispo nain rua, papa nain tolu ho kuku nain ha'at para hare se sira apoiu ha'u ka la'e.
Se la'e ha'u ba koko tok iha ONU. Se ema lakoi hili ha'u, ha'u fila lalais mai Timor […] ha'u nia povu sei presiza ha'u.
Imi hakarak hatene uluk ema tiru ha'u ne'e ha'u ba tiha ona lalehan. Jesus dehan ha'u atu troka orasaun Pedro sai porteiro iha neba mais malai mos diak, maibé ha'u dehan labele. Ha'u tenki fila ba Timor (…)

I want to re-candidate for President of the Republic, but I must go and ask three bishops, three popes and four owls to see if they are going to support me or not.
If not, I am going to check with the UN. If people don't want to pick me, I am coming back to Timor very fast […] my people still needs me.
If you want to know, in the past someone has shot me and I have gone to heaven. There Jesus told me I should replace Peter, to become the gatekeeper over there, but the foreigner was nice but I said I can't. I have to go back to Timor (…)

Fernando de Araújo, also known as Lasama, the current President of the National Parliament, supported his candidacy with 8,314 signatures. As part of his mocked electoral promises, he supposedly intends to lower the price of “noodles to 5 cents and palm wine to 1 dollar, as well as to open a big casino for playing cards”. As his avatar says, “listen to me! I want to be president of the republic too!”:

The Major General of the Armed Forces of East Timor, known as Taur Matan Ruak (Tetum for “Two Sharp Eyes”), whose candidacy was supported by 10,000 proponents, “takes the opportunity to explain to the voters why he wanted to be the first starting to campaign”, in anticipation of the date scheduled:

Even the Prime Minister and former President of the Republic, “Maun Bot” (big brother) Xanana Gusmão, has had his own avatar making a call to the “dear people of Timor Lorosae to prepare themselves for the party of democracy”.

December 07 2011

Video Highlights: Identity, Refugees, Conflict and Open Technology

This section aims to showcase interesting and recent posts in Global Voices that show the many ways in which videos are helping people tell stories all around the world. You can follow the activity by regions in our YouTube channel or by clicking on the regional header links.

East Asia

For our Special Coverage page on Languages and the Internet comes an article about the different languages of East Timor. This next short film shows us the importance of receiving education in the mother tongue and the innovative Education Policy for Multilingual Education that East Timor is adopting.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In the post ‘Mali, Niger: Tuareg Voices Barely Heard Over the Sounds of War ‘, a video amplifies the voices of the Tuareg:

In Kidal, a town in north-eastern Mali, an unofficial number of Tuareg people marched to claim the autonomy of the Azawad region on November 1.

In ‘Kenya: Life in Dadaab, the World's Largest Refugee Camp‘ we look through the eyes of different aid organizations the complexities of life in Dadaab, a refugee camp receiving more than 1,400 people every day:

Central Asia and Caucasus

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, video is being used to improve understanding of the complex issues dividing the people of both nations. We linked to this insightful blog post on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as seen through YouTube videos. It included this next video, which shows an interesting experiment on both sides of the border. In the video, a taxi with a camera records passengers reactions to the taxi driver's musical selection: he plays Azeri music in Armenia and Armenian music in Azerbaijan. The passenger's comments have been captioned in English.

You can visit our Special Coverage page on Caucasus Conflict Voices to learn more about the region's situation. To read more about the role of video in the conflict, visit ‘Armenia-Azerbaijan Dialogue Through Film‘ and its second part, ‘More Armenia-Azerbaijan Dialogue Through Film‘ will provide extra information.

Latin America

Global Voices Author and Lingua Editor in Spanish Juan Arellano has been interviewing different Latin American experts. In this one he spoke with Santiago Hoerth of the Codigo Sur project about open technology and Open Software:

In another interview, he spoke with attorney and Creative Commons regional representative Carolina Botero and asked her to give her opinion on piracy.

October 28 2011

East Timor: Investing in Creativity and Culture

East Timor is known for its material, musical and dance traditions. Celebration of “culture” was a crucial part of its resistance to Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999, and East Timorese independence has seen a number of emergent cultural projects. But something that goes overlooked is a strong culture of craft and “making” with locally available materials.

Passing on culture

Passing on culture

Enter a new project called “Tatoli ba Kultura“, meaning “Passing on Culture”. The objective of the project, after extensive research and preparation, will be to support the development of a school of creative industries:

The project aims to create an institution to conserve and protect indigenous culture but also to bring creativity to an educational level in order to create innovation.

The coordinator of the project, David Palazón, is an artist who hails from Barcelona, Spain. He says:

By chance I came here [to East Timor] to have a break with my career, do some volunteering in my field, one thing led to another.

He has been crisscrossing the country with his team researching Timorese material and performance culture, and posting fascinating videos, images and audio on the Tatoli ba Kultura “media map”, which is fast becoming a great reference.

Some of the most compelling videos are of musical instruments which are region-specific. Take for example this video of a musical instrument called Rama from Ataúro Island:

The Timorese context is quite specific, argues Palazón:

Kultura is not quite the same as we understand culture in the western world. For Timorese, culture is all those things that comes from the past, it's a reference point to understanding where they come from. My most common question when I do fieldwork is: Why do you do this like this? And the reply is always the same: ‘Because it is the way our ancestors used to do it, and it has been passed on from generations.' Obviously they have many influences from Indonesia, China, Portugal, etc … which are also rooted in the inside of the culture and are in practice totally embedded.

He says, in relation to innovation:

Traditionally speaking, Timor is still very much a country dependent on subsistence agriculture, the economy outside the capital is very much dependent on the family, their goods, what they can exchange, their family members and their incomes, and how these are distributed among who they choose in relation to their own traditions and beliefs. So in a way it is very conservative - not politically speaking - but because changing things implies a serious risk that many people cannot afford […] Nevertheless inside the traditional system there are people who are more progressive.

Ultimately, Palazón hopes that a school of creative industries would among other things generate employment through the rise of a “creative class”, increase small business development, and boost tourism.

Tatoli ba Kultura has the support of Griffiths University in Queensland, Australia and a number of institutional donors. Palazón paraphrases Griffiths Professor Tony Fry, who says, “Timor has two national resources: oil and culture. Oil will not last forever, on the contrary, culture will last forever.”

July 14 2011

East Timor: Arts and Creative Industries in Focus

With the main purpose of launching the future Academy of Arts and Creative Industries of East Timor, a series of cultural events and an international conference are taking place in Dili until the 17th of July. The organization's website Tatoli ba Kultura includes a media map featuring unique works by Timorese artisans.

July 03 2011

March 16 2011

East Timor: Konis Santana, a humble guerrilla hero

Written by Janet Gunter

Like any country born out of a protracted armed resistance, stories in East Timor of division from within the resistance are various, and quite potent. But one guerrilla figure who appears to have a powerful and unifying appeal is Konis Santana, who never lived to his people gain independence.

Santana in his underground shelter. By José Sequeira, Arquivo Museu da Resistência Timorense.

Santana in his underground shelter. By José Sequeira, Arquivo Museu da Resistência Timorense.

On the anniversary of his death this week, Timorese newspaper Tempo Semanal reported [Tet]

Ema lubun bo'ot ida halibur aan iha Mertutu dezde hodiseik (10/03) hodi hanoin hikas loron 11/03/1998 iha ne'ebe rezistencia Timor nian ba Ukun rasik aan lakon ninia lider di'ak ida saudozu Nino Konis Santana. Saudozu Nino Konis Santana mate iha ninia abrigu fatin iha Mertutu iha loron ne'eba no hakoi iha kalan hodi subar husi atensaun indonseia ninian.

A large group of people met in Mertutu from yesterday (10/03) to remember the day 11/03/1998 on which the Timorese resistance for independence lost its great leader, the deceased Nino Konis Santana. The deceased Nino Konis Santana died in his place of shelter in Mertutu during the day and was buried at night to hide from the attentions of the Indonesians.

His Tetum wikipedia entry states

Tan Xanana TNI sira kaer nia iha fulan Novembro 1992, Ma'huno Bulerek Karathayano sa'e nudar komandante FALINTIL. Konis Santana tama nudar membru Komite Politika Militar. Iha fulan Abril 1993 Ma'huno mos TNI kaer no hadadur nia tan nee Konis Santana sa'e nudar komandante foun FALINTIL nian.

When the TNI [Indonesian military] captured Xanana [Gusmão, resistance leader and currently Prime Minster] in November 1992, Ma'huno Bulerek Karathayano rose to become commander of the FALINTIL. Konis Santana rose to become member of the Political Military Committee. In April 1993 Ma'huno was also captured and so Konis Santana rose to be the new commander of the FALINTIL.

Santana led the armed resistance until his premature death, mostly basing himself in a small village in the western district of Ermera. He himself was an easterner from near the island's eastern tip, where the language and culture is quite different.

Since independence, Santana has been recognized by East Timor's political elite and by foreigners as an important figure. The first government of East Timor named its first national park, in pristine rainforest where he grew up, after him.

Recently Tempo Semanal newspaper published a piece of video footage of Santana on its blog, previously unavailable to a wider audience. The video shows Santana meeting with a Japanese solidarity activist who repeatedly made his way to visit FALINTIL in the jungle.

This video tribute (with many views given in 2009 Timor had the last internet access in the world), gives a little flavor for how some Timorese continue to celebrate him:

Perhaps what is most fascinating about Santana is the way in which he has become a part of folk mythology, and is quite important to at least one quasi-religious group in rural East Timor. Some have begun to refer to his possible reappearance, in a kind of messianic way.

While officially Santana is thought to have fallen and hurt himself, which along with existing health problems, is believed to have later led to his death in hiding, there is a feeling of “mystery” surrounding his death especially due to his night-time burial. This continues to trouble some, like this commenter “Darwin” in Bradford, UK:

well i don't really know what is going on right now, but i would like to ask those guys in the government, Who killed Konis? Is he really dead? Why? Where? Who going to answer all these question? well, i got to tell you guys, there is a mistery [sic] behind it.

That question received 29 responses from all over the world. Keibere in Sydney responds:

I am not going to ask anybody who killed him, it is all part of the plan of the big man, upstairs who made all of us, that is GOD, one dead is the same , as the other one, there is no difference between Kony Santana, and another Timorese.

Part of Santana's continued appeal is in fact a recognition of his humility. By living in amongst the people in an occupied mountain village, he was perceived as a servant-leader. So quite probably, Santana would have agreed with Keibere and been quite surprised with the cult of personality that has developed around him after his death.

Santana typing in a shelter. By Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere, Arquivo Museu da Resistência Timorense.

Santana typing in a shelter. By Comissão para os Direitos do Povo Maubere, Arquivo Museu da Resistência Timorense.

Two books have been published about Santana in recent years. Well-respected Portuguese historian José Mattoso published his biography a couple of years ago, based on documental sources and interviews in East Timor. And just a couple of months ago, reknowned journalist Jill Jolliffe published her account Finding Santana, which blogger Patrick Allington describes as

a terrifically blunt but often quite lyrical recounting of her clandestine 1994 trips to East Timor to interview then East Timor guerilla commander, Nino Konis Santana. I commend the book: it’s uncomfortable reading but it’s also a genuine page-turner […]

A new generation, that never lived through the Indonesian occupation, can come to know Santana through these books and the through Archives lovingly restored by a team coordinated by Mattoso [Pt] and from the video archives of Max Stahl.

All photos used with permission from the East Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum.

East Timor: Why is Transparency Important?

Written by Sara Moreira

Curt Hopkins, from the blog ReadWriteWeb, comments on the Timor Leste Transparency Portal [en, pt, tet], recently launched by the Timorese Government. Hopkins raises some questions on the relevance of financial transparency in Timor's context, and calls on readers to discuss it.

February 03 2011

East Timor: Affordable telephony and collateral outcomes

Written by Sara Moreira

Lemi Soares, from the blog IT Forum [tet], shares a video from Linux Conference Australia 2011, where he presented Dili Village Telco - a pioneer open technology deployment that aims to provide affordable telephony and to promote the creation of sustainable businesses for local people.

November 29 2010

East Timor: Rains threaten food shortage and disease

By Janet Gunter

This year East Timor has not experienced a normal dry season. Much of the country has had rain all year, apparently a result of “La Niña” (related to the ”El Niño” weather phenomenon). The capital Dili has repeatedly flash flooded. Local news outlets have reported both crops destroyed by rains, and even more worryingly that farmers have not planted this year in many places, as they are not used to preparing fields in the rain.

Farmer shows a spoiled rice crop. Photo used on CC license by Flickr user United Nations Photo

East Timor at the best of times is a net food importer, not able to produce surpluses to support city dwellers, and with a “hungry season” between crops. But this year, the situation is quite dire.

Mercy Corps aid worker Jim Jarvie explains

Normally, families prepare for up to two months of limited food in January and February between harvests, but this year the exceptional weather has meant they have already been suffering from lack of food for several months, with the next harvest still four months away if they are lucky. […]

To exacerbate the problem, the roads that link these vulnerable communities with the capital city, Dili, are crumbling down the steep slopes as excessive water slides the roads. sometimes down hundreds of feet, into gullies. There is little to no support for these weakening families in increasing isolation. And they have little voice.

Blogger The Dili Insider provides a simple photographic reminder that for the past years in this season, East Timor has found itself in this situation, waiting for ships with imported rice to arrive.

Since 2006, the government has been importing and subsidizing rice. In previous years, there have been scandals related to these rice contracts (see Global Voices' 2009 coverage of “The Ricegate scandal”). It is not clear how much of the imported rice has ever reached these isolated rural communities with food deficits - most appears to have gone to town and city dwellers.

And given the serious situation facing Timorese farmers, the issue of food imports and access to imported food has taken center stage once again.

Opposition blogger Tatoli continues to criticize the ruling coalition [Tet] on its rice importation policy:

Maibé foos mak tama iha Timor-Leste tonelada ba tonelada mós Povu Timor-Leste barak mak la hetan foos ne'e nia oin. Povu Timor-Leste kiak tiha ona, foos mós folin karun tan fila fali, enkuantu Sr. Germano da Silva Lobato (ministra Lucia Lobato nia la'en) sa'e karreta Hummer bá-mai hodi soe rai-rahun ba Povu ki'ik-kiak.

But the rice that comes to Timor, ton after ton, many Timorese people never even see it. The Timorese people are already poor, the rice prices go up again, while Mr. Germano da Silva Lobato [Minister of Justice Lucia Lobato's husband who got rice importation contracts] goes around in a Hummer kicking up dust all over the meek, poor people.

Economist blogger Professor Almeida Serra believes that inflation in recent months is linked to the availability of subsidized, imported rice. He wrote in late October [pt]

Para a subida da taxa de inflação terá contribuído, nomeadamente, o quase desaparecimento do mercado do “arroz do MTCI”, subsidiado, sendo substituido por arroz importado comercialmente. Por exemplo, a taxa homóloga de inflação dos “cereais, raízes e seus produtos” — onde se inclui o arroz e que representa 13,1% do cabaz do IPC — foi, nos meses de Junho a Setembro, respectivamente de 14,1%, 16%, 11,1% e 11,3%.

The near disappearance from the market of the subsidized “MTCI [Ministry of the Tourism, Commerce and Industry] rice”, substituted by commercially imported rice, has contributed to increased inflation. For example, the rate of inflation for “cereals, tubers and their products” - where rice is counted, representing a 13.1% of the basic needs basket - was from the months of June to September respectively 14.1%, 16%, 11.1% e 11.3%

Bloggers report changes in the government's approach to rice. Lita at “Notisia Negosio” (Business News) writes [Tet]

Iha fulan Outubru 2010 MTCI sei hamenus intervensaun foos iha merkado, tamba fo hikas ona k’nar ba empresarios sira hodi nune’e MTCI sei hare deit ba assuntos emergencia no sei atende deit iha fatin nebe’e deficil acesso ba mercado ( areas remotas ou rurais)

In the month of October the Ministry of the Tourism, Commerce and Industry [MTCI] will reduce its intervention in the rice market, because it has given this back to businesspeople so that the MTCI can focus on emergency matters and attend to those who live in places with poor access to markets (remote and rural areas).

One thing is clear: there will be little margin of error in food supply in East Timor over the coming months.

Mosquito-borne illness

Another potential impact of the rain is an increase in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes like malaria and dengue. The local media reported an upsurge in children being hospitalized in the month of October [Tet], with both patients and hospital officials citing the unceasing rains as a possible factor.

The World Health Organization's regional tracking of dengue revealed that as of September in East Timor, more than two times as many cases had been reported than in all of the previous year. Their briefing states:

The exact reason for the apparent upsurge in reported cases in different countries is not completely clear, but weather patterns, especially relative increases in rainfall are very likely to be an important feature.

The Timorese Ministry of Health has set up a team called Kondemal to “look at the extraordinary prevalence [of disease] or outbreaks that can happen in the rainy season”. The Ministry announces on its blog [Tet]

Ekipa Kondemal sei foti asaun seriu ba kazu extraordinaria nebe mosu iha tenpu udan. Liu husi servisu konjunta entre Ministeriu Saúde liu husi Saúde Distrito, Ho autoridades local hodi hatun no halakon moras ne’e liu husi atendementu hanesan Fogin (Rega susuk), Abatisasi no intervensaun seluk mak hanesan liu husi atendementu SISCA ne’ebé hato’o husi  Meja  4.

The Kondemal team will take serious measures against extraordinary cases that arise in the rainy season, through joint work between the central Ministry of Health and District Health institutions, with local authorities to reduce and get rid of these diseases through services like fumigation, abatisasi [use of abate powder in stagnant water], and other interventions like those treatment through the SISCA [mobile health clinics].

Robin Taudevin's 2006 photos of malaria and dengue patients at Bairro Pite Clinic are a dramatic reminder of what an impact these diseases have, particularly on children.

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