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Art & Architecture

Tetun Language

Stencil Art and Graffiti are art-forms highly valued by young people the world over. Youth who often cannot find any other places to have their voices heard express themselves through stencil art and graffiti.

[Note: Click on a photo to get the ‘gallery’ to pop up then scroll through the gallery using the ‘Next’ and ‘Back’ buttons near the top on the sides.]


This Portrait of Melancholy on the wall of a lane way in Suai in 2000 led me to Sergio da Costa and the beginning of a friendship that continues today. This portrait conveys more about the feelings of the young women of Suai at this time than anything else I’ve seen.

I find these informal artistic expressions that change dynamically over time exciting – because they are ephemeral, but also because of the passion that takes a young person into the street to express themselves without thought of financial reward. Sometimes these works reflect resistance or aspects of the underbelly of our neighbourhoods, sometimes it is just an expression of artistic spirit on display or a mark representing an identity in the form of a tag. Which ever it is it makes our lives more interesting.

In the public art in Suai I have found a freedom that is often not evident in work on canvas or paper and I guess you could say the same for Pt Phillip. See video the ‘Art of Healing’(Dur:7 mins) .


Domi & Friend in front of Sergio’s Wall art 2000 & Sergio’s House 2000

Something that is different in Suai, is the habit of artists to not only paint on walls in public places but to paint on the walls of their own homes. I was first was taken by a small boy to Sergio’s home in July 2000, I was surprised to see the outside wall painted with Disney characters alongside a provocative portrait of a woman. I met the little boy when I was photographing art that I later discovered was painted by Sergio. That little boy’s name was Domi and I reckon that is the same Domi who has been painting in the art class in Suai with Pt Phillips art materials.

In Sergio’s bedroom/studio, the walls were covered with his paintings. I guess this is not so surprising when one considers that materials can be expensive and hard to come by – but it also points to the values of the artists’ families. Why not allow our children to decorate our homes with their art? Another important function for this kind of ‘art on the house’ is that strangers are drawn to these homes that are obviously the homes of artists and this frequently leads to assistance, sales, or work in the form of commissions.


Almeida’s House and the painted door.

Sometimes in Suai the graffiti is directed to Australians working there and it gives us insights into our relationship with the young people of Suai where the right to freedom of expression is new and often hard to find.

For insights into freedom of expression under the Indonesian regime see the interview with the lead singer of Galaxy the top Timorese band in the video Hangover. Two of the artists featured in our Art category are prolific art in public places artists too: Sergio da Costa and Almeida.

Which ever way we look at it is part of a public conversation, and you will find more in Graffiti.

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