Wednesday, December 29, 2010


BBC Website Friday, 12 April, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK

Eyewitness: East Timor's road to recovery

Abe thinks East Timor's odds for success are good

As East Timor prepares for independence, BBC News Online talked to local UN worker Abe Barreto Soares about how his life has changed since Indonesian rule and about his hopes for the future.

Abe Barreto Soares has not even been able to see for himself much of the violence and suppression that East Timor suffered under years of Indonesian rule.

"We need to be mentally ready to face the challenges "
Abe Barreto Soares

The impoverished island had no universities, so Abe and his contemporaries were forced to study in Indonesia.

Even though he was free to pursue his education, "I felt like my hands and mouth were tied. I couldn't say what I felt about East Timor".

After six years in Indonesia, Abe went to Canada on an exchange programme. While he was there, news reached him of the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre when 200 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian forces during a peaceful protest in a church cemetery.

Abe sought political asylum in Canada, glad to be away from "this big prison called East Timor", staying for seven years until 1998 when he moved to Portugal.

He finally returned to East Timor in 2000 and says he is now "happy to be part of the process" of readying the territory for full independence in just over a month's time.

'Pillar' of the nation

Abe says that the presidential elections are an important step in the transition.

"As long as everyone recognises that everyone has the right to exist then they will have the chance to enjoy independence"
Abe Barreto Soares

Although the president will play a largely ceremonial role, "he is one of the pillars... the guarantor" of the nation.

He is "capable of giving the people the feeling of being secure and being in a peaceful environment to run their lives".

Abe says that he believes East Timor has a bright future, as long as everyone accepts it will take time to accomplish.

"To be an independent nation... is not just to say that we have independence... We need to be mentally ready to face the challenges".

Shaking off the past

The one issue he sometimes worries about, he says, is unity.

He says that conflicts in the past could cause divisions in the future.

But "as long as everyone recognises that everyone has the right to exist then they will have the chance to enjoy independence.

"I believe the spirit of reconciliation, of unity, can tackle these tendencies for conflict."

Since the terrible violence that accompanied the vote for independence in 1999, there have been "small incidents here and there" but nothing very serious, according to Abe.




"Literature should heal wounds in Timor-Leste"
OCTOBER 2009 -

"Poetry is a serious matter," says Abe Barreto Soares, a writer, poet and translator from Timor-Leste who has been blogging in English, Tetum (next to Portugese the main language in Timor-Leste), Indonesian, and Galole (an indigenous language) since 2007. "I believe that anyone who wants to become a blogger and tries to express themselves will find that blogging actually helps a lot for their artistic career."

This year marks a decade of independence for Timor-Lorosa'e (Sunshine), as Soares affectionately calls it. Since separating from Indonesia, in 1999, and becoming a democratic state in 2002, the Timorese people have been rekindling their sense of national identity. Intimately linked to nationalism is culture. Among the Timorese people, literature and indigenous oral poetry is an intrinsic part of their cultural heritage.

"East Timorese nationalism means that I know where I came from, where I am at this moment, and where I am heading,” explains Soares who sought political asylum in Canada in the 1990s where he campaigned for his country's independence. He refers to nations as trees, and expresses that "their branches and twigs will not flourish properly if they are cut from their own roots".

In Timor-Leste, where literacy levels hover around fifty percent, Soares uses blogging in conjunction with a monthly literary radio shows and organized poetry events to "communicate Timorese identity to the world at large". While he admits, it has not been easy to build a literary movement in a new country in the new millennium, he remains optimistic of its potential to contribute towards national development.

Soares is determined to make Timorese literature and poetry a part of the mainstream. He believes technology can be a helpful and liberating way to achieve this goal both nationally and internationally, but cautions that words can also be powerful and manipulative.

"Words can heal and also can hurt people. The real literary community should be the ones to bring healing to the wounds of society. They should be problem solvers and not problem makers. They should become the soul keepers. In the context of Timor-Leste, they have a big responsibility to keep the soul of the land of Lafaek (crocodile) alive. If they fail to do so, then it will be a total disaster."

Amanda Fortier


East Timor: Abe Barreto Soares’ Poetry for Nation Building

By Global Voices Online • on August 28, 2009

“The role of a writer is to collect the fossils of reality scattered around, then ornament them on the wall of our history”

In the previous post of this series, while celebrating the 10th anniversary of the referendum in East Timor, we presented the way in which the international community stood up in support of the freedom of the Timorese people. In this piece we interview Timorese writer Abe Barreto Soares in order to disseminate Timorese Nationalism seen through the Eyes of its Poets, the essay that he has recently published [tet, pt].

As a blogger since 2007, Abe (or his cyber-pseudonym, Jenuvem Eurito, as he was called by his friends in his youth) shares his words and thoughts in four languages often analysing literary work relevant for the self determination of his country. Moreover, Abe discusses thoroughly the construction of a national conscience after the fight for independence.

Taking advantage of the benefits of blogs to foster global connections and distance conversations in original ways, he describes his blogs as “sweet words, caring words, in a venue for people to talk to each other, sharing with each other on “what” and “how” life goes in the world”.

But Abe’s words and actions have not always been this free, as he stated during the Indonesian occupation of Timorese territory.
I felt like my hands and mouth were tied. I couldn’t say what I felt about East Timor.

Global Voices Online (GVO): Where were you 10 years ago? Can you tell us a bit about your life?

Abe Barreto Soares (ABS): During the time of the referendum, I was overseas. I happened to be in Portugal at the time. Along with other Timorese compatriots, I cast my vote in Lisbon.
I left Timor-Leste in 1985 to pursue my university studies, taking English as my major at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Then, I left for Canada to take part in a cultural exchange program in early September 1991. On November 12 1991 the [Santa Cruz] massacre occurred when I was about to finish my program. Being concerned for my personal safety if I was to return to Indonesia, I finally decided to stay in Canada, and seek political asylum. I spent 7 years in Canada, campaigning for a free and independent Timor-Leste through diplomacy and cultural activities (using music as a tool to alert the outside world to what was really going on in the country). I had the chance to spend a year and a half in Portugal from Spring 1998 until the Fall of 1999. Then, I went to Macau for journalistic training with a Portuguese news agency, Lusa, for six months (October 1999 until March 2000). I returned to Timor-Leste in July 2000. Since then, I have been working in UN missions in Timor-Leste both as an information assistant and a translator/ interpreter.

GVO: How did you have access to Timorese literature during the Indonesian times?

ABS: During the Indonesian times, while doing my studies in Yogyakarta, I came across books on Timor-Leste such as “EasTimor: Nationalism and Colonialism” by Jill Jollife, a fellow journalist, from Australia. From this book I discovered the late Timorese poet, Francisco Borja da Costa. One of the lines of his poetry appearing in the book: “smother my revolts/ with the point of your bayonet/ torture my body/in the chains of your empire/ subjugate my soul/ in the faith of your religion…/” really fired the sense of nationalism within me. And through the book “Funu: The Unfinished Saga of East Timor” by José Ramos-Horta (current President of the Republic of Timor-Leste) I discovered Fernando Sylvan.

Pedem-me um minuto de silencio pelos mortos mauberes.
Respondo que nem por um minuto me calarei.

Fernando Sylvan

They ask me one minute of silence for maubere deaths.
I answer that not for one minute shall I shut up.

Fernando Sylvan

GVO: You often quote Timorese poet Fernando Sylvan. In what ways do you take advantage of poetry in order not to shut up, as he recommends in the above poem?

ABS: A poet is a spokesperson of his or her era. He or she should break the silence when it comes to oppression. Living on this planet, we are in a constant battle between the dark and the light. A poet should be at the forefront, carrying the torch. He or she is the “warrior of the light”. (I borrow this concept from Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer).

[As an artist I have to be ready any time to engage in the spiritual war. Words are my swords. Hopefully, my words will provoke people so that they can be in tune with themselves all the time in creating harmony in this wonderful planet.]

Notes from a Musafir 48

GVO: Do your blogs in four different languages reflect the way people communicate in Timor?

ABS: Timorese like me have to be creative in taking advantage of the ‘blessing’ of colonialism and globalization. Aside from using my own mother tongue, Tetum and my father’s mother tongue, Galole which I am good at, I also use English and Indonesian in my literary carrier. I am proud of using them to communicate what I think and feel. I would love, someday soon, to create a Portuguese blog as well.

GVO: Why have you created a Korespondensia Literaria (Literary Correspondence, tet) category on one of your blogs?

ABS: I created the “korrespondensia literaria” entry on my Tetum blog in an attempt to convey to the outside readers the correspondence I have had with my fellow literary friends through SMS. Practically speaking, transferring them onto a blog can be considered as a way to save those messages. As a man of letters I need to engage in a constant communication with friends the world over. I want to learn a lot from them. I want to commune the philosophy of Greenpeace, “think globally, and act locally”.

[SMS:] ITA-BOOT NIA BATINA/ha’u moras todan: ha’u klamar terus/fó lisensa mai ha’u-ata atu kaer Ita-Boot nia batina/fakar mós Ita-Boot nia mina oliveira domin nian mai ha’u-ata/ hodi nune’e ha’u bele di’ak filafali ho lalais// [21:51:11//11-2-2009]

Resposta sira:

1.R. D. = “Se mak bulak ida ne’e?” [maisumenus tuku 10 kalan]
2.Suzana TP = “Diak pois há’u haruka ba suli hanesan tasi” [22:08:53//11-2-2009]
3.Atoi R. = “Obrigado maibé ha’u la kompriende” [22:18:00//11-2-2009]
4.Pe. Olá = “Sajak ne’e tau nia titulu, Jesus. Bele atrai liu” [11:55:12//12-2-2009]
5.F.Nascimento = “We matan mos, we liman diak, halo suli mai, fakar mos mai, ami iha lerek susar no terus laran. Tan Ita Boot, ami Nain deit. Laran luak tebes no kmanek wain basuk.”[12:56:05//12-2-2009]

[SMS:] YOUR ROBE/I am really sick: my soul suffers/ permit me to hold Your robe/Shower me with the fragrance of Your olive oil/ So that I will recover again//[21:51:11//11-2-2009]


a. R.D. = Who the hell is this? [around 10 PM]
b. Suzana TP= OK, I will then send back to you, flowing like a sea [22:08:53//11-2-2009]
c. Atoi R = Thank you, but I do not understand. [22:18:00//11-2-2009]
d. Father Ola = The title of the poem should be “Jesus”. Then it will be more attractive. [11:55:12//12-2-2009]
e. F. Nascimento = The eyes of the water are opened,/the hands of the water are good./Make them flow, and shower them on us/ We are in pain and suffering/ You are the only Lord of ours/ You are really the One having a good heart and a great joy

Sonhos dos Poetas Loucos

Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi hatutan no lolo liman ba malu
Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi bidu no tebe hadulas mundu rai klaran
ho haksolok
Lia-na’in sira-nia mehi fanun ha’u,
no ema lubun maka sei toba dukur

Fevereiru 2009

The Dreams of Crazy Poets

The dreams of poets are carried on, and they extend their hands to each other
The dreams of poets bidu* and tebe**
circling around the Planet Earth
with joy
The dreams of poets wake me up
As well as the crowd who are still soundly sleeping

Feb 2009

* dance performed by men
** dance performed by both men and women holding hands in circle

Friday, December 24, 2010



We are purifying the hearts
We are preparing the minds—
Being as sanctuaries
For welcoming the Prince of Peace

Merry Xmas to all!
Dili, 24 December 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010


*)Time is the great healer curing our deep wounds in life.


By Abé Barreto Soares

It is a great honor for me to be back to this prestigious university, UNTL to deliver a talk on literature. I am very pleased to be here this morning. This is going to be my third time being in a formal forum like this one in this campus. Good morning to all of you!

First of all I would like to thank the distinguished Rector of UNTL, Dr. Benjamin Corte Real for inviting me to come and deliver this talk. I am also grateful for my dear literary friend, Antonio José Borges a.k.a Tozé who greatly encouraged me to come and share some of my thoughts on literature to his class as this one. Frankly speaking, at first when I received the news from Tozé about his plan to bring me here to deliver this talk, I was so happy, but at the same time I was a little bit confused about which topic I should choose to do so. Last Saturday, while working on the translation of my works (poetry) into Portuguese in the park at the seafront close to Palácio do Governo, I then proposed to Tozé by saying, “Don’t you think if I choose the following topic, ‘Influence of Portuguese literature on my literary career’ will be a good one for my talk in your upcoming class?”. “That is it, Abé! Why not?, Tozé happily answered.

Since poetry has been a literary genre which I have been dealing mostly in my literary career so far, for this morning talk I am going to focus merely on the influence of the works of Portuguese poets in my poetry writing.

I was grateful with the fact that I had acquired the level of education of primary school during the Portuguese period. With that basic knowledge, I, at least, have the command of basic Portuguese language skills. This has been very useful for me all these years when it comes to the literary world.

Three Portuguese contemporary poets whom I consider as somewhat as my literary mentors are: Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen and Eugénio Andrade.

I discovered these three great writers in my mid and late twenties after being overseas, particularly in Canada and Portugal. It was a wonderful encounter.

It was in a small public library in Toronto city where I first came across the work of Fernando Pessoa, “Mensagem”. Reading such work reminded me of the “Lusíadas” of the epic Portuguese poet, Luis de Camões. Then, soon afterwards I discovered his prose: correspondences (love and literary letters), and some pieces of autobiographical writings. It is interesting particularly to read his love letters. The style of his letter writing, particularly the love ones began to have an influence on me. It also became as ingredients in my poetic adventure. The persona of Fernando Pessoa also reminded me of the English Romantic poet, John Keats in dealing with his romance life.
Permit me to read some of the passages of his letter to his girlfriend, Ofélia Queiros.


Now let me talk about Sophia Mello Breyner Andersen. The same thing happened to this poet. I discovered her in Toronto.
I have written an essay as a tribute to her after her death two years ago, and it was published by Várzea das Letras.

I consider her as a traveler representing the West traveling to the East through her writings.
Her style resembles the works of tanka, haiku of Japan, and cantos as that of Ezra Pound, the American poet.

Her poetic credo which I very much share is as follows:

“ A poesia não me pede propriamente uma especialização pois a sua arte é uma arte de ser. Também não é tempo ou trabalho o que a poesia me pede. Nem me pede uma ciência nem uma estética nem uma teoria. Pede-me antes a inteireza do meu ser, uma consciência mais funda do que a minha inteligência, uma fidelidade mais pura do que aquela que eu posso controlar…………Pede-me que viva atenta como uma antena, pede-me que viva sempre, que nunca me esqueça. Pede-me uma obstinação sem tréguas, densa e compacta.”

(As part of the appreciation of her poetic works, let me share with you some of her poems which I take from her book, “Obra Poética I”.)

(…Reading of her poems)

To vividly illustrate to you all the influence of this great poet on me, the following are some of my works which have been translated into Portuguese, and appeared in “Timor Lorosae: Em Português Vos Amamos”, published by Solidarity Group for Timor-Leste in Bruxell in 1999.

(…Reading of my poems…)

Let me now turn into a little bit about the life and the works of Eugénio de Andrade.
While wandering around in Lisbon, the old capital city in 1998 after attending the Convention of Timorese Resistance, I happened to pop into a bookstore called FNAC. A book of Eugenio Andrade with his photo, in his late years, attracted my attention. And I opened the book, and found his marvelous poetic works. The reading started. A vibration of great poetic sensation overwhelmed me. Reading his works made me feel as if I was the one who spoke through his writings. Later on, I discovered more and more of his works (the essays) published in volumes. I bought the books, and it is too bad that I could not manage to bring any of them with me here today. I have no doubt to admit that the style of essay writing of Eugénio dominates me, and you will find them in the near future when my essays are published.

I like to think this talk to be more as a dialog and not a monolog. With this, I would say that reading the poets, their lives and their works is a spiritual communion. And the great Mexican late poet, Octávio Paz, even went further by saying, “if a society eliminates poetry, then that society commits a spiritual suicide”.

Hotel Timor, 9 May 2007
22:18 hrs

Monday, November 1, 2010


Saints’ and Soul of Dead’s Day--- It is ime for us to bow to them/they are the ones extending our prayers/they are the ones listening to our cry//

Monday, August 2, 2010


By Abé Barreto Soares
Dili, June-July 2009

“Poetry is existential communication”
Breyten Breytenbach


The issue of nationalism is always an interesting topic to elaborate and talk about, particularly in a country like Timor-Leste, which has gone through periods of colonialism under Portuguese and Indonesian rule.

Like any other writers from Portuguese colonies in African continent, Timorese writers also played a very significant important role in burning the sense of nationalism alive among their fellow compatriots during the struggle for national liberation. A concrete example can be taken from Angola is its writer, Antonio Agostinho Neto who, “was not only Angola's first president but he remains its most prominent poet, with his work published in several languages. Neto's poetry deals with the quest for freedom and several of his poems were converted into liberation anthems.”

This short paper tries to analyze and discuss the literary works (poetry) of three prominent Timorese poets, namely Fernando Sylvan, Francisco Borja da Costa and João Aparicio which, at least, have helped shape the sense of Timorese nationalism in the recent past of Timor-Leste’s contemporary history.

The paper also will discuss a little bit the relevance of these three writers’ literary works in today’s context of a free and independent Timor-Leste, and their vision towards a prosperous and peaceful Timor-Leste in the future.

Fernando Sylvan: “....even in one minute I will not be silent”

This Timorese man was not only known as a poet, but also known as a prose writer and an essayist. His real name was Abílio Leopoldo Motta-Ferreira. He was born in Dili, Timor-Leste on 26 August 1917. He died in Cascais, Portugal on 25 December 1993.

He spent most of his time in Portugal. Wikipedia further describes that “even though there was a geographic distance between Portugal and Timor-Leste, the writer kept writing on his motherland. He elaborated on Timor-Leste’s legends, tradition and folklore in his works. In the end, he was well-known as a great poet of Portuguese language, and he became the president of its Society.”

Through his book, A Voz Fagueira de Oan Timor, we will be almost familiar with most of his poetic works. We will find some of his poems in this book, describing the strong sentiment of Timorese people’s nationalism spirit.

In 1971, three years before the Carnation Revolution took place in Portugal, Sylvan had started alerting his fellow Timorese on the issue of racism. The year 1971 was then declared as the International Year against Racism. As a spokesperson for the colonized people from the Third World, Sylvan expressed his profound sentiment on the matter through his poem, Message from the Third World. From some of the lines of the poem he marked his firm position by chanting:

“Não tenhas medo de confessar que me sugaste o sangue
E esgravataste chagas do meu corpo
E me tiraste o mar do peixe e o sal do mar
E a água pura e a terra boa
E levantaste a cruz contra os meus deuses
E me calaste nas palavras que eu pensava.
Não tenhas medo de confessar o esforço
De silenciar os meus batuques
E de apagar as queimadas e as fogueiras
E desvendar os segredos e os mistérios
E destruir todos os meus jogos
E também os cantares dos meus avós.
E eu sobrevivi
Para construir estradas e cidades a teu lado
E inventar fábricas e Ciência,
Que o mundo não pôde ser feito só por ti.”

In 1981 after six years of the invasion and occupation of Timor-Leste by its neighbor, Indonesia Sylvan appeared again by encouraging his Timorese compatriots to fight against foreign domination, so that in the end peace and freedom would be gained. He lamented Portugal’s weak reaction to such reality. The poem, Timor-Leste which Sylvan wrote displayed his statement and his cry:

teu grito fretilin ecoará
com Portugal quieto
com Portugal calado
sem um acto de força a tua força
sem um gesto de orgulho ao teu orgulho
sem um nada de nada a tua História

Mas tu resistirás a Indonésia
e lutarás
e redesfraldarás a tua bandeira
e recantarás o teu hino
e reproclamarás a tua independência

E na liberdade das tuas liberdades
terás a justiça da tua justiça
e no amor do teu amor
terás a paz da tua paz......”

Sylvan had a vision that sooner or later the war of Timor-Leste against Indonesia for achieving peace and freedom would come to an end. He believed that in the end Timorese people would reap the fruit of independence. Such vision was shared by Timorese leader overseas, José Ramos-Horta (current President of Republic of Timor-Leste) when he waged a diplomatic battle in many years. From Ramos-Horta’s book, “Funu: the Unfinished Saga of East Timor, we can also find an untitled short poem on war, which he cited:

“Funu, guerra. –A guerra
há-de terminar
a sorrir amor.

Semente a partir-se
tem seu fim na flor.”

The spirit of Mauberism which, in many years, was fostered and promoted by Fretilin during the struggle for Timor-Leste’s national liberation inspired a man of letters such as Sylvan. Through the poem, Manifesto Maubere Sylvan wanted to reinforce further the determination of Timorese people, the Maubere people to affirm its own identity. Many Timorese overseas, particularly in Portugal, used to recite the poem in their cultural performance as an act of paying tribute to the poet.


A cultura é a memória
de um povo que não morre!

A acção é a história
de um povo que não morre!

Ouviram bem?

A vida é a liberdade
de um povo que não morre!

A independência é a vontade
de um povo que não morre!

Ouviram bem?

A justiça é a oferta
de um povo que não morre!

A luta é a descoberta
de um povo que não morre!

Ouviram bem?

There was no doubt that the death of Nicolau dos Reis Lobato, Timorese leader who was killed during the combat in the jungle in 1978 had really shaken the fighting morale of Timorese people for independence. Sylvan made an effort to revive the fighting spirit by describing the greatness of Nicolau Lobato, which would continue to be alive and exist in the hearts and minds of Timorese people. The poem, Vozes Mauberes revealed such deep sentiment:


Uma criança chama:
-Presidente Nicolau Lobato!

Outras crianças chamam:
-Presidente Nicolau Lobato!

Vamos responder-lhes com as vozes dele:

As a tribute to Xanana Gusmão (current Prime Minister of Timor-Leste), who was in the jungle as the prominent resistance leader, Sylvan sang in his following poem. He used the rooster as a metaphor to describe the warrior, and the blade as weapons. However, in his poem he described Xanana (the warrior) as a rooster using no blades to fight. This shows that Xanana used his brain, and diplomacy to defeat his enemies.

Poema a Xanana Gusmão

(mas só depois)
os galos
lutarão sem lâminas

The poem also served as an effort of its poet to respond and conclude a Timorese popular song who was famous during the war as described as follows:

Manu aman Timor-Leste
Manu futu fatin
Lalika tau tara manu futu fatin

In ceremonies to commemorate national holidays, Timorese people usually remember their heroes and heroines who died during the war—fighting for independence by observing “one minute of silence”. As a poet who had alternative views, Sylvan reacted by expressing the following poetic words as an act of protest:

“Pedem-me um minuto de silêncio pelos mortos mauberes
Respondo que nem por um minuto me calarei!”

Francisco Borja da Costa: “……on the point of my bayonet/ I will mark in history the form of my liberation”

This man of letters was more famous with his last name, Borja da Costa when we talk about “who is who” in Timor-Leste’s literary circle. He was born “in Fatuberlihu, south coast of Timor-Leste on 14 October1946.” He died at the age of 30 when Timor-Leste was invaded by Indonesia on 7 December 1975. Indonesian paratroops were the ones killing him.

Borja da Costa had a keen observation on the issue of racism during Portuguese colonial rule “when he fulfilled his military obligations in Portuguese army and deployed in Laclubar. He noticed that his military service that he undertook served as ‘a good experience” since he had the courage to speak out against racial discrimination. After the military, he joint public service. From his post in the public service, he could manage to observe the censorship process practiced in Portuguese rule. He carried our personal research on discrimination against Timorese people in work places.”

When the Carnation Revolution took place in Lisbon on 25 April 1974, Borja da Costa was already in Portugal “doing an internship with “Diario de Noticias” “ When he was in Lisbon, “he worked and lived with other Timorese in Casa dos Timorenses, a centre for Timorese nationalists overseas. In his own words, he said that he “was educated politically” by Timorese radicals.”

During his stay in Portugal Borja da Costa’s spirit of revolutionary literature was sharpened even more through his readings of works by famous writers. “In his view, writers who had a big influence on him were Bertold Brecht, Pablo Neruda, Maxim Gorky, and the poetry of Mao Tsetung.”

Borja da Costa was a poet who “wrote poetry in the classical form, in the Tetum language. Its images were all of the things of Timor: of the spiraling mountain peaks, of the chickens in the knuas (villages), of the rivers which divide and re-unite endlessly.”

Borja da Costa began trying to wake up Timorese to open their eyes clearly to see the reality that they lived under colonial rule when he returned from Lisbon in 1974. Along with his comrade Abílio Araújo in Fretilin which he was also part of it, they “composed poetry and songs expressing the people of Timor who had long lived under the oppression. They transformed traditional songs. The first work of this cooperation was “Foho Ramelau”, which was later known as the “revolution anthem” of Fretilin.”

Foho Ramelau
Tan sá timur ulun sudur uai-uain?
Tan sá timur oan ata uai-uain?

Hadeer rai-hun mutin ona lá!
Hadeer loron foun sa’e ona lá!

Loke matan loron foun to’o iha knuak
Loke matan loron foun iha ita rain

Hadeer kaer rasik kuda talin eh!
Hadeer ukun rasik ita rain eh!

Through the song, Foho Ramelau Timorese felt that they were strongly firm to have the destiny in their own hands, sooner of later.

Many years during the resistance war, the song continuously burned the spirit of Timorese alive to fight for their rights to self-determination. In towns and cities of Timor-Leste, the song was banned for Timorese to sing by the Indonesian occupying force but in the jungles and overseas where Timorese resided such as Australia and Portugal, the song continued to be heard by people.

Any country in the world always has its own national anthem. Borja da Costa contributed his work “Pátria, Pátria” for the national anthem of Timor-Leste. It was publicly sung for the first time when Timor-Leste’s independence was declared on 28 November 1975.

Hino Nacional

Pátria, pátria!
Timor-Leste, nossa Nação
Glória ao Povo e aos heróis
Da nossa Libertação.

Vencemos o colonialismo
Gritamos, abaixo o Imperialismo
Terra Livre, Povo livre
Não, não a exploração.
Avante unidos
Firmes e decididos
Na luta contra o Imperialismo
O inimigo dos Povos
Até a vitória final
Pelo caminho da Revolução

Pátria, pátria!
Timor-Leste, nossa Nação
Glória ao Povo e aos heróis
Da nossa Libertação.

For hundreds of years Portugal ruled Timor-Leste. Timorese people lived under heavy oppression. After the decolonization process of Timor-Leste which, in the end, did not produce a good result in 1970s, Timor-Leste was forced to face the invasion and the occupation by Indonesia for more than 20 years. Timorese people felt that they were not the owners of their homeland with the fact that it was occupied by others. They lived in darkness, they lived without freedom. The following poem, “O Rasto da Tua Passagem” described Borja da Costa’s strong revolt against colonialism and forms the liberation of colonized people. Timorese activists in Australia managed to record the reciting of the poem in both English and Tetum and tried to circulate it in Timor-Leste and Indonesia clandestinely during the resistance years. The reciting of the poem helped fanning the fire within the hearts of young Timorese who studied at universities in Indonesia.

O Rasto da Tua Passagem

Silenciaste minha razão
Na razão das tuas leis
Sufocaste minha cultura
Na cultura da tua cultura
Abafaste minhas revoltas
Com a ponta da tua baioneta
Torturaste meu corpo
Nos grilhões do teu império
Subjugaste minha alma
Na fé da tua religião


Minha terra, minha gente
Banhada em sangue
Escorragada, exangue

Barbaramente civilizaste na demagogia da tua grei
Brutalmente colonizaste na ambição da tua grandeza

Na ponta da tua baioneta
Assinalaste o rasto da tua passagem
Na ponta da minha baioneta

Marcarei na história a forma da minha

João Aparício: “…….Timor, o my Land/You are my name!”

There was no much information to describe this young poet. According to the website of Editora Caminho, it states that “João Aparício is a poet living as a refugee in Portugal.” In 1999 he worked as a radio announcer for Rádio Renanscença, Lisbon in a program called “Timor, Sol Nascente”, which was broadcasted daily. He had published his poetic works in a book called Versos Oprimidos where he used his pen name Kay Shalay Rakmabean in 1995. Then, in 1999, he published his poetry book entitled A Janela de Timor, and in 2000 he published another poetry book called Uma Casa e Duas Vacas.

Poems taken to discuss and analyze in this paper are mostly from the book, A Janela de Timor. The launching of the book took place in Lisbon in April 1999. In some part of his remarks for the launching, Aparício affirmed his poetic vision as follows: “O sofrimento do Povo de Timor foi e continua a ser o alicerce da minha poesia. Não vivi em mim mesmo. Vivi a vida e alma dos meus irmãos
timorenses. Fui obrigado a reflectir mais cedo sobre o mundo e sobre o drama
da minha Pátria. Aquilo que escrevi é o que maioria do Povo de Timor pensa
e sente, desde que a tragédia se abateu sobre nos. É a sumula da
consciência de um Povo que está presente: a consciência do Povo de Timor. É pensar de modo novo o que foi dito e vivido pelos meus antepassados e pelas gerações de actualidade."

Aparicio’s affirmation described above was really in tune with what the Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran said about the essence of a poet is that, “The poet is the mediator between the creative power and people” As a poet, Aparício fulfilled the criteria to be the spokesperson for the lives of his people which are full of pain and joy.

Poets everywhere almost have the same character. They have a strong love and passion towards their own roots of life. As a descendent of Timor-Leste, Aparicio values a lot his beloved country’s existence. He really appreciates the landscape of the three montains: Ramelau, Matebian and Kabalaki which Timor-Leste has. On this, he described in the following poem, Meu Nome:

Meu Nome

Imagem viva de Ramelau, Cablaqui e Matebian,
Tres almas gemeas, imortais e sagradas,
Loucas no combate e mansas no amor.

Timor, o Terra minha,
E's o meu nome! "

Aparício sees Timor-Leste as the cradle of life, which he always loves. Timor-Leste is like his soul, the soul of Timorese people. The poem, Timor-Leste depicts this sentiment:


És o meu berço natal,
Onde p’ra sempre Te amarei,
E onde sempre Te Espero!

Jamais voltarei a perder-Te..
P’ra que continues a ser
Alma minha, terra úbere.

The flame of Timor-Leste’s struggle was almost gone before Santa Cruz massacre occurred, which woke up the conscience of international community that something went wrong. Two days after the massacre, Aparicio took his pen and tried to express his feelings, and made an effort to encourage the Timorese people who were in national mourning moment. With the poem, Timor-Pedra-de-Toque he encouraged them:


Pátria da ha’u-inan e dos aswain,
Está as escrever a Sua História
Com letras de sangue e de lágrimas,
Está a construir o Seu futuro
Com os cadáveres dos Seus filhos.
Pátria de Xanana e dos jovens de Santa Cruz,
Continuará a bater os portões do mundo
Com a Sua mão cansada e ensanguentada;
Continuará a gritar para Portugal
Com a Sua voz de irmãos de séculos.


Xanana Gusmão and his revolutionary character where lots of Timorese considered as their guide in the struggle for national liberation inspired Aparicio to utter his thoughts in the following poem, Xanana –Mito:


És o oan-mane-kmanek de todas as mães,
O maun Boot X dos nossos jovens,
O áman das crianças de Timor…

És a uma lulik dos velhos,
O lia-na’in dos sábios..
És o mito do povo de Timor-Leste.

Timorese resistance once again entered a phase of shaking when Xanana Gusmão was captured by Indonesian troops in Dili on 20 November 2002. It was a big blow for the resistance. This, of course, made Timorese down. Aparício stood up again with his pen, challenging his enemies by stating in the following poem, Xanana:


Caíste nas mãos do inimigo;
Em angústia e luto está
O coração do teu povo amado…
Quem te traiu, meu irmão?
Que te traiu?
Toda a ilha chora…
Todos os homens de boa vontade choram..
Até os túmulos dos heróis choram por ti…”

Relevance of Poetic Works in the Context of Timor-Leste Today and Tomorrow

Now Timor-Leste lives in the atmosphere of independence. Since 20 May 2002 Timor-Leste has restored its independence. Timor-Leste has been part of international community as a free, independent and sovereign nation. As any other country in the world, Timor-Leste indeed has its own past which it had gone through, its present which is now happening with full intensity, and its future which it dreams of achieving it with a full of hope.

Development activities are now carried out in all aspects throughout the country. The question now is: what is the relevance of the literary works of the poets in the aspect of cultural development at the moment and in the future?

There is no doubt that the poetic works of the three man of letters: Fernando Sylvan, Francisco Borja da Costa and João Aparício play an importante role to constantly revive the social, political and cultural values which they believe in for Timor-Leste as a sovereign nation in the world.

As an individual, Sylvan dreamed of building a new nation. He wanted to love people, ideas, and things. He had his belief for peace in the future. This dream can also be shared by his fellow Timorese which are part as citizens of the world. In a line of an untitled poem, the man chanted:

“…… Quero só ajudar a propor a outra vida/Quero só ser mais um a fazer novo mundo.
Tenho de amar pessoas e coisas e ideias.
Tenho de ter certezas na paz do futuro.”

Children as the future of the nation will continue with a new struggle in today’s modern globalized world against: poverty, hunger, illiteracy, etc. He asked the kids to wake up and get up:

Meu filho
Não podes
Dormir sonhar:
Guerrilheiro tens de ser
Que o povo
Tem de lutar!

The values of unity are the classical ones, which are still relevant in the process of nation building. The cliché, “A união faz a força” continues to become as guiding principle which can consolidate the life of a nation. The strong national unity of Timor-Leste will bring Timor-Leste to achieve stability now and in the future. Since 1974 Borja da Costa had appealed to his fellow Timorese to be united. The poem, Kdadalak espressed the poetic vision of this man of letters:


Kdadalak suli mutuk fila ué inan
Ué inan tan malu sá ben ta’han

Nanu’u timur oan sei hamutuk
Hamutuk atu tahan anin sut taci

In today’s world, there should not be forms of oppression of any kind. In a free and independent Timor-Leste, there should be a change of mentality for its people. The poem, Povu Maubere Sei La Sai Atan ba Ema Ida continues to remind Timorese of this concept:

Ita tenke hamosu
Moris foun ida
Atu haluha tiha
Katak povu ne’e sei sai atan
Ita tenke hamosu
Ema foun ida
Husi rai ne’ebé ita hamrik ba ne’e

Ita tenke harahun
Tauk no todan
Opresaun koloniál”

Like Sylvan who sang in his poem, Manifesto Povo Maubere, for determing Timorese’s own cultural identity, Borja da Costa also wanted Timorese not to be slaves for any one at this time, when they enjoy their independence:


The fighters’ struggle in the past was not in vain. The result of their struggle is the freedom which is now enjoyed, and where they had waited it for so long.
As a nation, as a people, Timorese should not forget the aswains (the heroes). Borja da Costa reminded his fellow Timorese to be with him in “Um Minuto de Silêncio” for remembering the role which the fallen heroes had played:

“….Hakmatek ba,
Imi-nia hakmatek, ita-nia hakmatek
Oras atu hakmatek
Ba hakmatek tempu nian
Ba moris nian
Ba ema hirak be saran na


Since 1976, Aparício had wanted to invite his fellow Timorese, when living in the era of independence, to simply live in tranquility, not wanting war, and having no empty stomach:


Sou rouxinhol do Oriente,
Alma de rosas…

Não querro guerra
Porque me rouba a paz

Quero mais arroz
E uma simples guitarra


As a people and a nation anywhere in the world, for the sake of survival in all aspects of life, Timorese people should, along with their poets, constantly engage in acts of reflections: looking towards the past as big lessons to learn, living in today’s reality in an intensive manner, and hoping to embrace the future with a great joy. To reinforce this commitment, Kahlil Gibran had said that, “But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons, and let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.”


APARICÍCO, João—A Janela de Timor, Editorial Caminho, Lisbon, 1999

BREYTENBACH, Breyten --End Papers, McGraw-Hill, 1987

CAMÕES--- Revista de Letras e Culturas Lusófonas, July-September, 2001

EVANS, Boddy Alistair-- Internet (About.Com), “Biography: Antonio Agostinho Neto

FERRIS, Anthony—Spiritual Sayings of Kahlil Gibran, New York, 1962

SAHE INSTITUTE FOR LIBERATION--Poezia Borja da Costa iha Luta Hasoru Kolonializmu, Dili, 2005

GIBRAN, Kahlil – The Greatest Works, Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, 2003

JOLLIFE, Jill—EAST TIMOR Nationalism & Colonialism, Queensland, 1978

SYLVAN, Fernando—A Voz Fagueira de Oan Timor, Colibri, Lisbon, 1993

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Words move me to tears
Words shaken me
Words revolutionize me
Words have wings
Words fly
Words are not tired
Words are merely words
Merely inviting us
Merely inspiring us
Merely saying hello to us

Tuesday, January 12, 2010



i am still blue!
i am still sick!
i am still tired!

oh, Lord, when
am i going to drag again my powerful steps?
January 2010