[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.]
During the hectic time that precedes a trip to Suai I got a phone call from Pat Jessen, (Co-ordinator of the Friends of Suai), to chat about art materials she wanted to take to Suai. She ended up taking some small canvasses, some quality art paper, coloured pencils, charcoal pencils, crayons and oil paints. When she got there Pat enlisted my friend Sergio da Costa to find some artists and these portraits are what they came up with.
All the artists live in the centre of Suai except Atoy who lives in Suai Loro. The first two paintings in the gallery top left are by Atoy. Rumour has it that Atoy studied at Arte Moris (Birth of Art). in Dili for a while. Atoy’s portrait Boy 1 particularly, is embued with the colour and tonal qualities of his environment and I’m sure he has painted his portraits using his friends as live models.
Suai Loro is a lowland area by the beach, about ten to twelve k’s from Suai but the trip is a 40 minute drive from Suai, because the road is deeply deeply rutted and damaged by the hundreds of trips made along it by armoured vehicles in 2000 that left behind potholes that have grown into massive muddy sections of road that remain wet for many days between rains. I first visited Suai Loro at that time with Veronica Pereira. It was devastatingly poor then and still is very poor. The villages are close to the beach overlooking the Timor Sea, near the mangrove swamps , and the houses, built from traditional materials are built high above beautiful deep brown sand, to protect them from flooding.
In Suai Loro people are still living together with houses placed near each other and facing into each other in groups. Simao, the Friends of Suai Chefi told me that the Portuguese introduced straight roads and living alongside roads to East Timor. This kind of change makes a huge social impact but I’m yet to understand what difference it has made in East Timor.
Sergio dashed off his pencil sketch (centre bottom row) in about ten to fifteen minutes while I was watching him when he was first commissioned to do the portraits. Two of the portraits of the young women have been painted from photographs while the first of his in the gallery third from left in the top row above, of the young woman with the blue top, looks a little like his sister Julia, so perhaps Julia modeled for that one. Indrey has sketched they guy who was working as security at the Community Centre and I don’t know who drew the girl on the chair. I will try and find out.
The artists range widely in age. Idrey (I hope I have spelt his name correctly) is about ten or eleven, Sergio and Atoy are both in their twenties.