BOATS, CROCODILE ANCESTORS AND MERMAID MYTHS IN THE ART AND CRAFT OF TIMOR-LESTE – TAASA Review December 2008

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This article was originally found in the December 2008 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 17, Issue 4, Page 12).

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Joanna Barrkman S everal works currently on display in the exhibition Husi Bei Ala Timor Sira Nia Liman ­ From the Hands of Our Ancestors, co-presented by the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, Darwin and the National Directorate of Culture, Timor-Leste, illustrate the significance of water in Timor-Leste’s cultural expression.

These works, from the National Collection of Timor-Leste and from the collection of the Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory, provide insight into the art of Australia’s nearest Asian neighbor. The seas surrounding Timor-Leste are named tassi feto ­ the feminine, calm sea to the north of the island ­ and tassi mane ­ the masculine, wild sea to the south.

These seas define the physical world of the Timor-Leste people and reflect their conceptualisation of the dualistic nature of existence that underpins traditional Timorese societies...