I first saw a tais, the hand-woven textile of Timor, at the launch of the Friends of Suai in March 2000 in the gardens next to Luna Park in St Kilda. The tais was displayed in an exhibition with pottery, paintings, wood carvings and other craft objects. I understood the impact of seeing these objects much later when I realised how different Timorese culture is to Indonesian culture. The next time I saw tais was in an exhibition mounted by Sara Niner for the Alola Foundation, at Gasworks in Port Phillip for the Melbourne Festival of Arts in October 2000.
Since 2000 Sara has been touring Timor researching and buying tais for the Alola Foundation collection she has learned much about it. Since information about the tais is difficult to find I will use her words to describe a little of what the tais is, its meaning to the men and women of East Timor and a little about its role in Timorese culture. Sara wrote this for the Forum she convened in September 2008 titled: ‘Exploring Meanings, Makers and Markets of Tais, the Hand-woven Textiles of East Timor‘. The Forum was accompanied by an extensive exhibition in the St Kilda Town Hall Gallery in Port Phillip and there is a comprehensive slideshow here. Don’t miss the response to this article by Cova Lima expatriate Balthasar Kehi in the comments field
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