For the past few months I have had the great pleasure of working alongside Dr Lisa Palmer of Melbourne University on developing her amazing Digital Archive of Timorese Culture and Ecology, a labour of love for Lisa and her Canada-based colleague, Dr Susanna Barnes.
Like Lisa, I am a Timorese by marriage & passion, however, unlike her, my experience of the country and its people has earnt me only a superficial understanding of the profound place of traditional belief systems and practices in the lives of ordinary Timorese people. Having been swept up in the modernising agenda of the development industry through my work as founder and Chair of the Alola Foundation, I have only skirted the edges of indigenous Timorese culture and its role in defining and shaping its people’s world view. Whilst I have worked hard over the past decade or so to see a greater space accorded to Timor’s many local languages in the education system of the country, working with Lisa on her archive has filled many gaps in my knowledge of what makes Timor and its people tick.
If, like me, you are curious to delve more deeply into the heart and soul of Timor-Leste, its psyche and spirit world, then I recommend Lisa’s new book to you.
“Island Encounters: Timor-Leste from the Outside In” (ANU Press) is free to download:
This article in Melbourne University’s “Pursuit” offers a taste of the poignant and personal stories of life in Timor which are told in the book.