The Sculptures of Atauro Island exhibition at CDU Art Gallery

Current exhibition

<strong><i>Ancestor bust, Lepu-Hmoru</strong></i> (detail)<br/>José da Costa<br/>Hhua le’en ceremonial house, Luliopon, Maquili, Atauro Island, Timor-Leste<br/>Mid-20th century<br/>Wood, Australian red cedar (Toona ciliate), lero (AD), ai saria (T)<br/> 127 H x 11 W x 13.5 D cm<br/>National Collection of Timor-Leste, NCTL00745The Sculptures of Atauro Island presents the unique and captivating sculptural tradition from this remote island that lies across the Wetar Strait from Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital city.

This exhibition explores continuity and change in the wood-carving and sculptural traditions of Atauro Island. Despite the island’s turbulent history, wood-carving skills continue to flourish on Atauro Island. Today, sculptors create distinctive and innovative, contemporary figures that build on earlier, classic sculptural forms specific to their island.

The Sculptures of Atauro Island presents both contemporary and historical sculptures including ancestor figures, sea creatures such as mermaids, fish and crocodiles, as well as masks, shields and ceremonial spoons. This exhibition feature sculptures from the:

  • National Collection of Timor-Leste, Dili
  • National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
  • Charles Darwin University Art Collection, Darwin
  • Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin
  • Private collection of Maria do Céu Lopes da Silva
  • Private collection of Michael Abbott AO QC

A short film documenting the process of sculpting, featuring master sculptor Antonio Soares, is presented in The Sculptures of Atauro Island.

Other films presented elucidate aspects of the lifestyle of the Atauroan people are:

  • Wawata Topu – Mermaids of Timor-Leste, a film by David Palazón and Enrique Alonso and
  • Ro’o Putin Hatin - Putin’s Boat, a film by Victor de Sousa.

Charles Darwin University Art Gallery has published a catalogue to accompany The Sculptures of Atauro Island with the generous assistance of the Gordon Darling Foundation. This catalogue documents the sculptural traditions of Atauro Island and the influences that have contributed to contemporary sculptural expressions. In addition to the works displayed in the exhibition, sculptures from the following cultural institutions are featured in this forthcoming publication: Asian Civilization Museum, Singapore; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Art Museum, New York, Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris; and the Wallace Collection, Singapore.

The catalogue is available from Charles Darwin University Art Collection and Art Gallery.

Public programs

Available for purchase

Ancestor pair sculptures

The CDU Art Gallery is happy to announce ancestor pair sculptures and diving goggles are back in stock. Pieces are strictly limited, see friendly gallery staff for more information or contact us today.

Exhibition image gallery


  • Listen to Joanna Barrkman's Territory FM interview on The Sculptures of Atauro Island exhibition by playing the media below

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