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Orlando Hoar Berek Boavida Martins & the tais of Kamenassa

November 9th, 2008 jen Posted in News, Suai Tais, Tais of Kamenassa, Tais Weaving, Traditional Culture 1 Comment »

When Pat Jessen of the Friends of Suai went shopping to buy tais for the market stall to be set up for the Tais Forum held in St Kilda in early September she bought a tais mane (male tais) woven by Orlando Martins (centre photo), for the market stall at the Friends of Suai Weaving Forum: Exploring Meanings, Makers & Markets of East Timor. The beauty and technical excellence of the tais led to it being included in the  Friends of Suai Tais Exhibition: Exploring Meanings, Makers & Markets of Tais where it became an outstanding contribution  alongside another feto tais (female tais) from Kamenassa.   We are unsure who wove the female tais, but our photographs show Inveolata weaving a very similar one during the time we were there. The tais  have since been donated to the Alola Foundation Collection.

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Introdusaun kona ba Tais Timor

November 7th, 2008 jen Posted in Introdusaun Kona ba Tais Timor, Suai Tais, Tais Homan Tetun, Tais Weaving, Traditional Culture 4 Comments »

2 Outubro 2008 Jen Solok tuir Internet Istoria kona ba Soru Tais

Isin primeiru hau hare tais maka ema Feto Timor oan sira soru ba loron ida iha fulan Marsu 2000 kuanda City of Port Phillip (Cidade Port Phillip) lancar projeto Belun Suai (Friends of Suai) iha Jardim bot ida besik Luna Park, St Kilda. Hau hare tais maka ema pamer (expor) hamutu ho sasanan ceramica, pintura, escultura hosi ai ho arte seluk sira. Hau hatene impaktu hosi hare arte sira nee ikus mai bah au nia hanoin. Hare arte sira nee hosi Timor hau hanoin katak cultura Timor la hanesan cultura Indonesia Loro Monu (Indonesia Barat) nian, por examplo, cultura Java ho cultura Bali. Isin segunda hau hare tais kuando Sara Niner organizar eksposisaun (pameran) ida kona ba Alola Foundation iha Gasworks iha Port Phillip durante Melbourne Festival of Arts (Melbourne nian Arte Festival). Read the rest of this entry »

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Introducing the Tais

October 2nd, 2008 jen Posted in Introducing the Tais of Timor, Tais Weaving 4 Comments »


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
Read the rest of this entry »

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Exploring Meanings, Makers & Markets of Tais: Exhibition

October 2nd, 2008 jen Posted in Exhibition, Tais Weaving 1 Comment »

Titled ‘Exploring Meanings Makers & Markets of Tais‘ an exhibition of tais (the traditional cloth of East Timor) was held in the St Kilda Town Hall Gallery in September,  2008. It was held alongside a Forum to discuss the issues facing Timorese weavers since the referendum for independence in 1999. The exhibition was initiated by Dr Sara Niner and the Alola Foundation in mounted in partnership with the Friends of Suai, the East Timor Womens’ Association and the Melbourne East Timor Activities Centre.  Read more about the exhibition and the tais in Introducing the Tais of East Timor an article written by Jen Hughes with extensive quote from Dr Niner and an interesting response in the comments by expatriate Timorese Balthasar Kehi.

Note: on the first photograph and follow the next buttons by hovering the cursor a small distance from the top on the right hand side of the image. There is also a previous button opposite it on the left hand side of the image. For those who want to keep informed about the weaving stories you should click the RSS Feed button at the bottom of the post and you will receive an email each time I post a new story about weaving.

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Exploring Meanings, Makers & Markets of Tais: Forum

September 8th, 2008 jen Posted in 2009 Friends of Suai Port Phillip, Forum, News, Tais Weaving, Traditional Culture 5 Comments »

To see Tais in Exhibition click here.

To read about Forum in Tetun click here.
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge photos in galleries. Hover your cursor on right or left edge – near the top, to find Next and Back Buttons.

Few people have had the privilege of seeing tais, the beautiful hand-woven “hidden textiles” that are the work of the women of East Timor.   I experienced the pleasure of seeing dozens of beautiful pieces being slipped out of their bright orange acrylic bags, and rolled off a huge bolster, on to the polished cedar table, in the old St Kilda Town Hall, last week. This thick-walled room, that buffered the heavy traffic sounds of St Kilda Road, was a long way from the ground where the tais were woven – where the loudest sounds are roosters crowing and perhaps a wooden mortar and pestle pounding sago palm bark into edible form. (To see exhibition click here)

Dr Sara Niner,(Post Graduate Research Fellow at Monash and Xanana Gusmao’s biographer), who initiated the Forum, was unrolling the Alola Foundation’s collection of tais for an exhibition in the new St Kilda Town Hall Gallery. Only the lucky few that have travelled to Timor, have witnessed the skill and dexterity of these amazing artisans working in the backstrap looms, in East Timor. Over a hundred people who wanted to learn more about the tais and support the weavers of East Timor were at the opening of the tais exhibition and Forum Weaving Meanings & Makers from East Timor‘, last weekend.

[I have included close-up photographs of the futus patterns and embroidery work. Many Timorese can recognise the district a tais is from as well as its role in ceremonial life by the patterns and shapes. However, little is still known by foreigners about the meaning of the patterns. I have included what information is available beneath the images.
Click on the photographs to enlarge them. The ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons can be found a few cms down from the top on the sides by hovering the cursor there.. ]

We have seen the beauty and admired the skill. Now we were gathering to see a collection from across Timor and hear some of the best and most experienced minds, apply themselves to questions about the meaning of the tais in Timorese life and what happens when you commercialise a craft grounded in culture and sacred life..

Since 1999 many people assisting East Timorese women have imported tais for sale and assisted weavers and sewing groups to produce items such as purses, bags, cushion covers and baskets that are saleable in Australia and elsewhere. Now the organisers and audience sought to understand the impact on the weavers and the tais, of colonialism and post-independence activities aimed at improving the lives of Timorese women.

The Friends of Suai partnered with a suite of Australian NGO’s and Monash University to bring about the Forum on the 6th September, the ninth Anniversary of the Suai Church Massacre that led to the formation of the friendship group in Pt Phillip. Balthasar Kehi a member of the Friends of Suai Committee, solemnized the Anniversary of the massacre by presenting a poem he wrote in 2006 when he was working in the refugee camps in Dili. In the poem Balthasar recalled the unity and optimism that followed the terrible losses and grief in the early days of independence and called on the Timorese leadership to remember the voiceless people of their country.

There were two stunning tais from Kamenassa, Covalima in the exhibition. The Co-ordinator of FOS, Pat Jessen and committee member Desleigh Kent purchased these tais and a number of others in Suai in June, for the tais stall set up by Friends of Suai for the first time this year Up until now, coffee has been the only product handled for sale by the Friends of Suai. It remains to be seen if the current team can keep up with the work of purchasing tais and setting up a tais table at every opportunity that affords itself in addition to all the other work they do. However, the initiative of a tais trading table provides people in Pt Phillip wishing to support the women of Covalima with an exciting opportunity to get involved.

Together the Exhibition and Forum left me with a the profound understanding that textiles are the art form of Southeast Asia and Timor. I learned from observation and experience that traditional Timorese culture is supported by growing, cutting, tying, knotting, weaving, dying and sheathing a variety of fibres, grasses and leaves for ceremonial and practical purposes. Now I understand better how the work of making the tais and conserving the tradition is important because of its role in culture in defining womens’ identity and the way this cultural practice influences interaction and social cohesion. Yesterday’s forum reiterated the need to protect the weavers and their work. I came to appreciate the need to encourage weavers and nurture especially skilled and committed weavers, but more importantly I came to appreciate that weaving as a cultural practice is integral to the Timorese meaning of life.

Timorese and Australians attending, expressed the need to create markets for products woven and sewn by Timorese women, to create an income stream for them. Ego Lemos expressed the fears of many of us when he warned of social dangers for women and Timorese culture in commodifying the tais. Indeed, according to Sara Niner, Australian and overseas experience shows there is a great need for care and sensitivity in developing a cultural practice into an industry. The difficulty is, the Timorese women are highly skilled but very vulnerable. With no other choices for developing income for food and the education of their children it is a life and death choice for many, where some families are already resorting to selling their daughters into prostitution. This argument carries weight so long as the money the women receive for their work make it a sustainable activity. At this point it was easy to see how profoundly important it is for the intellectual work of the forum to continue and how critical it is to develop and strengthen dialogue with the weavers.

The Forum revealed a need for a strategy that takes care of business while also respecting the continuance and where necessary revival, of cultural practices, that are critical to the meaning of life for the people of East Timor. Also, in considering the future of the tais and the weaving tradition we need to be looking at the history and traditions in the context of the whole island, working to understand the tais motif and symbolism as well as the Artisan’s histories so that the role of the tais in culture is well understood. An outcome of the workshops in the afternoon was a call for a similar but bi-lingual forum to be held in East Timor that weavers could attend.

The exhibition will be open until September 30. Monday to Friday 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (Trams 3, 67 or Train to Balaclava Station turn left and walk down Carlisle street to the Town Hall).

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Santa Cruz Massacre 15th Anniversary

November 9th, 2007 jen Posted in 1991, 2000, News, Tais Weaving Comments Off on Santa Cruz Massacre 15th Anniversary

One of the tasks of this site is to help bring justice to the people of East Timor by keeping memories of the atrocities against them alive through ‘Acts of Remembrance’. My friendship with East Timor began with a massacre – the Suai Church Massacre.

Veronica carrying the tais

Veronica carrying her commemorative tais in a massive procession from St Motael Church to the Santa Cruz Cemetry November 12, 2000

This November 12, 2007 is the 15th Anniversary of the Santa Cruz Massacre. Follow this link to learn the published history This moment in East Timor’s history is particularly sad, for East Timor lost 271 young teenagers and students. Either dead or missing it left many people with the loss of all their children and no bodies around which to build a mourning process.

The woman in the procession carrying the tais is Veronica Pereira. In an extraordinary act of love and remembrance Veronica wove five tais with the names of all the youth who died or disappeared into them, to create an everlasting symbol of their sacrifice. The documentary about Veronica will be uploaded next year under the title ‘Returning the Tais’ to Timor.

Social Events
This weekend about twenty young Timorese who are in Melbourne are performing a play written by Filomena dos Reis that she describes as “telling the story of the Timorese youth of the past, present and future.

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