POLITICAL struggles in Timor Leste and traditional weaving merged to take out the 40th Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award this week.
Elastics/Borrocha/Elastico is a title taken from a children’s game, and reflects the tiny country’s hard-fought struggle for independence.
“In this folio of 10 prints the Timorese tais [traditional weaving] is presented as a form of resistance and resilience and artistic vernacular that identifies this newly formed democracy and as an enduring symbol of social change,” the judges said.
Maria Madeira (Timor Leste), Fiona MacDonald (NSW), Narelle Jubelin (NSW) and Victor De Sousa (Timor Leste) travelled to 11 of Timor’s 13 regions as part of a mobile art residency in late 2012, recording everyday life, especially the traditional textiles of the women weavers.
Faith in the former Portuguese colony revolves around a mix of Catholicism and animism that predates European invasion, and remains a society with a fixed domestic role for women, Maria Madeira says.
“Women have children, and are in the house.”
By raising textiles’ profile she’s hoping social change will follow, and there’s talk of taking the residency exhibition to Dili, where textiles are considered every day and the arts are non-existent. “I think the younger generation will gain from it, it will open doors for them, and they will see there are other ways for our culture.”
Becoming an artist wasn’t an option for Madeira growing up, as she fled Timor with her family when Indonesia invaded in 1975, and spent years in a refugee camp in Portugal.
“Being in a refugee camp you don’t do much of anything,” she says with a pause of that painful period of her life.
In Australia, the Beeliar local studied art at Curtin University, where she’s currently finishing up her PhD.
“I’m the first Timorese art teacher in history, and the first to have an arts degree.”
WA artist Teelah George took out the second prize, while 1999 winner Raymond Arnold, Virginia Fraser, Elvis Richardson, Emma Jolley and Rebecca Shanahan were highly commended.
The print exhibition is on at the arts centre until November 15.
by JENNY D’ANGER