Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Francisco Xavier do Amaral From my reading, which I admit is little, I understand that the first President of Timor Leste had a life that ended well but had some terrible twists. In 1976, after only a few days as the President, he was forced to flee with his people into the hills as the Indonesian’s invaded his beloved country. He was then imprisoned by his own people, and thrown into a hole and fed scraps, before being captured by the Indonesians and employed as a servant in an Indonesian General’s house in Jakarta. In 1999 he returned home and stood as a Presidential candidate, but only, in his words, so that the election was seen to reflect the democratic will of his people. He never stood a chance against the much respected and loved Xanana Gusmão. However, he continued serving his country and was considered one of its elder statesmen until ill health took him to another place in March 2012. So, on the invitation of Abe, a renowned Timorese poet, I went to his memorial concert. I wasn’t sure what to expect and whilst the opening was impressive, the crowd seemingly subdued. I stood next to a white board that soon became the focus of several Timorese artists’ brushes. I watched with interest as they transformed the white artists’ paper into a mass of different colours and images. I was first drawn by their style of dress and impressive hair, but this was replaced by my curiosity for their painting, and I found myself constantly looking to see what they were painting. As the minutes past the whiteness was replaced by a beautiful mountain. However, its beauty was short lived as it soon became apparent that this mountain had come to depict the suffering imposed on Timor. This was particularly demonstrated by the bombing of innocent civilians seeking refuge in its caves. As the night progressed and as the crowd started to acknowledge the quality of the performers and the brilliance of their performances I realised that I was witnessing something unique and special. The music was incredible and each song was both original, but performed with such force. The melodies and falsettos were like none that I had heard before. I opined that the influence of different cultures and experiences had shaped the Timorese culture into a rich and unique tapestry of art, music, poetry and theatre. I know that these performances would stand up well in any Festival in any part of the world, from Edinburgh to Sydney. The songs and poems were particularly powerful, and to me were expressions of a country and its people that should be proud of their beauty, and more importantly the bravery of their bloody heroes. So tonight was a special night that I never wanted to end. I left wishing that the world had been there with me to remember a man who died a hero but had suffered, like his people, much to gain that status. By Martin Dransfield Dili, 21 April 2012