Issue 1
Monday, 02 March 2020
Charles Darwin University
Members of the Grupu Nama-Nama Dansa Tradisionál perform at the exhibition opening in Dili
Members of the Grupu Nama-Nama Dansa Tradisionál perform at the exhibition opening in Dili

Gallery strengthens Timor-Leste relationships

By Andrew Hall

A 2017 Charles Darwin University (CDU) Art Gallery-curated exhibition has been recreated in the artworks’ homeland capital of Dili, Timor-Leste, completing a circle of cross-cultural cooperation that spans more than four years.

“The Sculptures of Atauro Island”, staged in March 2017 at CDU’s Casuarina campus Art Gallery, in partnership with the Timor-Leste State Secretariat of Art and Culture and Timor Aid, explored the importance of a unique and isolated sculptural practice.

CDU Art Gallery Acting Curator Kellie Joswig said Atauro Island – located across the Wetar Strait, 25km north of Dili – was home to a distinctive sculptural tradition that had largely disappeared from much of the eastern islands of South-east Asia.

“Many of the sculptures depict ancestor figures, sea creatures such as mermaids, mermen, fish and crocodiles, as well as masks, shields and ceremonial spoons,” Ms Joswig said.

“The more recent sculptors create distinctive and innovative contemporary figures that build on earlier, classic sculptural forms specific to their island.”

Ms Joswig said the artworks provided all-important livelihoods and cherished cultural continuation for the Atauro artisans.

The Dili exhibition, which opened on 14 February, focused entirely on works that were returned to Timor-Leste after the 2017 Darwin event, and several more recent ones.

“It was wonderful to attend the event in Dili, that had its origins in our CDU Art Gallery, and assist in its development, which we have advised on and supported for the past two years,” Ms Joswig said. 

She said a second edition of the exhibition catalogue, written by CDU Art Gallery Curator Dr Joanna Barrkman, and now published in English, Tetun, and Portuguese also debuted at the Dili exhibition.