Sunday, October 30, 2005

Our first cultural event

Sunday 23 October 2005

Last night we attended our first official cultural event: an art and photography exhibition on the theme of human rights followed by the viewing of two documentaries. The event took place at the Arte Moris (literally translated Living Art) Cultural Centre, which houses the only art, drama, and music school in Timor and which is nearby to where we live.

The students’ artwork was very bright and colourful with bold paint strokes and large characters. It reminded me of the work of Diego Rivera and his murals in Mexico City but in fairness to Rivera, not quite as good.

The photography exhibition titled Etre (Being): The Face of Human Rights was sponsored by the Cultural Foreign Policy Centre of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The exhibition was originally mounted in Geneva to mark the opening of the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights and following Switzerland’s accession to the United Nations. The exhibition was created with the archival photos of Magnum Photos (France); many of which were poignant and thought provoking. The accompanying commentary for each theme was in English with translations into Tetun as the impetus for showing the exhibition in Dili, was to encourage Timorese to attend and therefore prompt them to think about their human rights in a fragile new democracy. The themes covered by the exhibition were:

The Right to Life: what is the value of a human life?
Prohibition of Discrimination: how can they say I am different just because of the colour of my skin?
The Right to Food: why is half the planet hungry?
The Right to Health: must a woman’s life in some African countries be so much shorter than in Western Europe?
The Right to Housing: is it human to live in a cardboard box?
The Protection of Private Life: why should we be allowed to have secrets?
The Freedom of Thought and Belief: what are we supposed to believe in?
The Right to Education: is it possible to be free and equal without education?
The Right to Work: human capital or human beings?
The Protection of Property: who has the right to own what?
Fair Trial and Prohibition of Torture: “how does one man assert his power over another, Winston?” – Winston thought. “By making him suffer”, he said. (George Orwell, 1984, 1949.)
Political Rights and Freedom of Expression: should the world ‘free’ only be allowed in such statements as “this dog is free from lice”?
The Rights of Refugees and Displaced Persons: nowhere to run, no place to hide?

Max Stahl created the films shown: an Englishman who has made Timor his home for some years. His camera footage of events such as the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991 made headlines around the world. The first film we watched was about ex Falantil soldiers and their status in the now independent Timor. It wasn’t very interesting. The second film was rough shots for a work in progress about the events of September 1999. It was quite boring and I wasn’t impressed. We watched these films outside under the stars in the still humid night air with tens of young Timorese children. Some of the scenes were not appropriate for children to watch and I wondered where the parents of the children were. Still, how any parent manages to keep a watchful eye on eight children is beyond me.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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