Monday, October 30, 2017


I can scarcely believe it is the start of the third week here at Boneca de Atauro. I have needed time to adjust to the heat- I think all the travel from the last three months and wintry conditions haven't helped  to deal with the heat and find the right level of hydration. On the other hand life does move a little more slowly here, thought the ladies on the treadles at Boneca are amazing and the food at Manu Koko-Rek has equally been amazing. Life is very simple here whilst there is water, it is not in great supply- so showers are had, with bucket and soap ( my training in my shed has stood me in good stead), likewise being frugal with water usage overall. The internet has it's problems and there is no power during the day ( so no aircon or fans during the day and no aircon in any case- the only one I have seen is at the hospital)- the generator runs at night and last week they forgot to bring the diesel from Dilli so there were also  3-4 nights without power. So come on Tesla or any other solar supplier willing to donate- solar would be a gift from heaven here! Clothes are hand washed and appliances don't really exist much except for tv's and mobile phones. I also managed to get an infection in my big toe- I sually don't get infections much but this escalated quite quickly and still hasn't entirely calmed down. There is a hospital on the island which is manned by Cuban doctors who visited the Boneca last friday and who I seem to run into every time I go for a walk. The best time for a walk is around dawn before the sun heats up too much or dusk.

I have tried to learn how to use the treadle machine to free motion  quilt/stitch, just to see what is possible. It's been a learning curve that is for sure. On my machine I just push a button and my machine goes at the speed I need with the correct tension. On the treadle on the other hand I have to match the movement of my feet with my hands whilst tensioning in a hoop and tensioning extra to make sure there are no skipped stitches, which means having fingers in quite close proximity to the unprotected needle- and then your feet slow down to avert the danger when in fact you should keep them going at a steady pace. I am slowly getting there!

The Boneca dolls  have been made here since 2007. Visitors to the  island  usually make it to Boneca de Atauro as it is one of the  craft attractions of the island, plus it employs local women as a co-operative, so sustains families as well.People are poor here but are resistant to development (a casino has been mooted)- they are proud of their island and themselves and want to keep their cultural identity intact though of course need to earn money to survive.

 The hand woven fibre below is made form palm  and the finished piece is called Hrapinhirik. I love it and it sews surprisingly well and they make tote bags with it at Boneca. It is made by women up in the mountains of the island so a very local product. This is a very small island measuring 19 km x 8 km, but is the home to about 10,000 people.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Atauro Island Timor Leste

A very quick blog post indeed. I am still here though I did manage to lose my passport and mythe american dollars I had taken to spend in the local economy- so hopefully the person who found it will spend it in the same way! It meant a day of bureaucratic running around in Dili with my help Madalena Barreto, we revisited every place where I might have left it, talked to many people, filed police report and  organised an emergency passport- which had it's own complications because I am not actually born in Australia though I have been a naturalised citizen since age 14. Anyway hopefully it is all sorted.So even though the gods took, they also smiled sort of, by limiting the bureaucratic aftermath that these things engender to a day- which is quite remarkable!

I got to Atauro Island on Monday on the dragon boat- the only transport between Timor Leste and the island is a ferry and the dragon boat, otherwise you catch a fishing boat. And then finally I arrived at Boneca de Atauro. I am impressed with what the women achieve on treadle machines. The public generator only runs between 6 pm and 6 am so electricity isn't an option to power machines so hence treadle machines are used. The weather is so warm ( hot really and I am struggling a bit with the heat taking to wearing wet kerchiefs) that we have been working outside. We have been making linocuts. The idea is that I teach some of the younger ones and then they will pass on what they learn to the other women, We are working on linocuts and printing this week and then embroidery by machine and hand maybe- we will see.

It really does have the feel of a far flung place but this makes it wonderful. The people are friendly and the children curious and open.I am looking forward to seeing how this residency will develop!

The Boneca de Atauro shop in Dili. You can aslo buy their product online- just follow the link I have given in the previous paragraph- there is an online  catalogue. This weekend two of my students are going to Bail- to celebrate the win of a stop motion movie they made about the Bonecas ( dolls) de Atauro- they have won many prizes with this little film in Asia

Traditional Tais weaving from the  Museum in Dili.
  Arriving with the dragon boat.
Making designs for linocuts.