These works show how Timorese traditional culture and their traditional textile the tais are appearing in the work of the artists from Cova Lima Suai and redefining Timorese culture for a new audience in the international art market. The slideshow includes more work of senior artist Natalino dos Reis Pires whose work featured in Melbourne at the recent Arte Moris Bundoora Exhibition, as well as the work of Rius, Mari and Gibrael. More about Natalino dos Reis Pires
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In 2006 Artists working in Arte Moris the free art school in Dili had already begun encouraging their students to paint on the tais. For those familiar with the culture of Timor and the tais the motifs in the paintings and drawings will be easily identifiable. For those who are unfamiliar with the tais you can see a good selection of tais in our story about the Exhibition and Forum held in St Kilda in 2008 where there are many great examples of tais several from Suai Covalima and an article.
In the paintings and drawings shown here, sometimes the tais is used as a canvas in others the strong history of patterns that appear in tais and the stripe are prominent either as background or patterned into the figures.
In one painting by Gibrael it is painted as the thorny skin of a crocodile that floats on a background pattern depicted with geometric lines similar to those found in Covalima tais. Also there are the familiar traditional grass roofed houses above a man and a woman doing a traditional dance with cloth. In another work by Natalino a collection of traditional icons such as the golden buffalo horn head-dress are layered in oil on to a reed mat, a Biti that is used for sitting on the ground for conversation, hospitality and meetings.
Interestingly the majority of portraits in this collection that include the tais in some form are of women who are the primary producers of tais. In the portraits the transformation of Timor’s culture is undeniable if you compare the view of Senora Pires in the black western suit and white shirt in front of a bright tais featuring the synthetic colours of Indonesian cottons frequently used today, to the portraits of women clothed in tais or cotton sarongs or surrounded by tais in the more muted and subtle natural dyes of the traditional tais. Mari has created an interesting portrait of a man titled ‘The Culture Face’ in which he has used a variety of traditional pieces including the tais as the material of the head.
In his paintings Mari has used the tais to create political narratives. In the work ‘Together’ Mari has used the stripe, the crocodile symbol and a generic traditional house woven together. In another titled ‘Imperialism’ he has used the tais to section the canvas in to nine areas at the centre of which are houses with varying shaped roofs that signify they are from different districts in East Timor. At the centre bounded by the tais is a rectangular Portuguese style house with the buffalo horn laid on the ground before it in the foreground.
East Timor’s tragic history is poignantly represented in Natalino’s tragic and poetic painting ‘Tragedia’ in which a traditional house is patterned entirely with red tais while a shredded red tais drips like blood from fragments of structural pieces in the background.
Rius has used the tais in more abstract form in his beautiful pieces titled ‘Timor Nabilan’ (2008) and ‘Rai Hamutuk’ (2007) but the influence of the tais on Timorese life is very clear.
Included in the slideshow is the work of Mari, Gibrael and Rius also from Suai. Unfortunately since Gabi just gave me copies of her files during a very busy visit, I don’t have the surnames of Mari Gibrael or Rius, so apologies to them we will put that right as soon as we can.
You can see the work of Natalino featured in the Arte Moris Exhibition in Melbourne recently and read more about him here. All the work of the artists is for sale by contacting Gabi through the Arte Moris website.