The title of this exhibition held in Darwin and then in Sydney is borrowed from the universal collaborative children’s jumping game of Elastics / Borracha / Elástico and suggests in English, Tetum and Portuguese the ingenious and convoluted task of rebuilding from scorched earth — from the ground up — for future generations. It points to the zigzagging historical records, contesting geopolitical points of view and the different generational experiences of the brutal four decades following Portugal’s decolonisation of Timor Leste. Many truths have been told; many will remain untold.
When five Australian journalists working in Balibo in mid-October 1975 were murdered by invading Indonesian troops, the world was alerted that Timorese people needed support for their demand for the right to decide their own future. Some of these smaller stories in the struggle for self-determination are embossed in lines and symbols in hand-woven tais cloths traded at fundraisers or embedded in hand-printed or stenciled campaign ephemera and posters: the material culture that quietly sits alongside the bigger historical narratives. This cross-cultural project continues this legacy.
In contrast, the official record of prosperous and close neighbour Australia is pretty clear: to prioritise its economic interests in the petroleum resources in a part of the Timor Sea and a treaty negotiated by disproportionately resourced nations. The elasticity of such boundaries are referred to by Narelle Jubelin in her small MAP petit-point, a work joining two opposing maps to create a wickedly fantastical hybrid entity as poisonous as a 500-year-old colonial navigator’s drawing. Over the duration of the Elastics exhibition the new Timor Gap accords, over the issue of who owns the oil and gas, were tested for their equity and fairness with small pitted against giant. In contrast to Jubelin's careful stitches, the industrial fencing zigzagging through the middle of the capacious Chan Contemporary Art Space sets a real-politic boundary — albeit one hung by cultural tais woven by the people whose futures depend on the outcome. Most hold that international law is clear and Timor Leste is absolutely entitled to exploit seabed resources to 200 miles. (The disputes are supposedly being conciliated at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, either informally or through formal processes of conciliation, a process that Australia continues to obstruct.)
Fiona MacDonald, Maria Madeira, Narelle Jubelin, Victor De Sousa
Winner, Freemantle Print Award 2015
Fiona MacDonald, Maria Madeira, Narelle Jubelin, Victor De Sousa
Document of informal meetings with weavers, builders and school children in eleven of Timor Leste's thirteen districts. Thanks to, Paulina Amaral, Maria Ximenes, Alberto De Cruz, Albertina Da Cruz, Terezinha Da Cruz, Domingas Soares, Emilea Orzinda Amaral, Francisco Neto Amaral, Ferninia Da Conceição, Cecilia Baros, Anna Flora, Agusta De Fatima, Filomena De Santos, Celina Pinto, Anistacia Gama, Koperativa Girasol Alfayate I.T.N Beloi and Cristina Da Costa with school children.
Elastic is an award-winning set of 10 prints. To view each print and the Colophon information please see http://crossart.com.au/home/index.php/store
Download Elastic colophon for information > Download pdf
Open Archive No 3, No 4, No 5, No 6, 2014. Four short movies, duration 0:11:04. Video Production: Moon Cube Design
One of these weavers was emeritus artist Veronica Pereira Maia who has graciously lent to the Darwin exhibition her legendary Tais Don (1995-99) commemorating the name of each of those killed in the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre in Dili. This extraordinary work, made over five years, comprises five woven ikat textiles or tais with each letter in white on a black ground, each name separated by a crucifix, and each line divided by blood red stripes. (Official estimates of the dead vary from 271 to 273 of those identified.) Made to accompany the installation Tuba-rai metin: firmly gripping the earth, Veronica Pereira Maia wove each textile as an abstract composition (the weaving is long-ways and each piece is about 2 metres) while seated at her back-strap loom outside a model of a Timorese sacred house / uma lulik, typical of Los Palos on the Eastern tip of Timor. (Installed beside the ruins of the old post office and adjacent to the old Parliament, now the Chan Building, for Darwin Fringe Festival in 1996. Although the artist's Tais Don project preceeded the Tuba-rai metin outdoor installation. The uma lulik was built outside Darwin in an activist's backyard in Howard Springs under the supervision of Antonio Maia, the weaver's husband. (Tuba-rai metin artists: Antonio Maia, Risto Nousalien, Veronica Pereira Maia, Albertina Viegas. The Uma Lulik team was led by Antonio Maia. The uma lulik's current whereabouts are unknown.)
After the Darwin Fringe Festival, Tuba-rai metin: firmly gripping the earth traveled: the uma lulik was dismantled and shipped to Sydney and assembled on the lawn outside the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Then at the Casula Powerhouse and Canberra School of Art, Australian National University.) On 12 November 2000, a few months after Timor won the Independence vote and withdrawing Indonesian troops destroyed Dili's infrastructure, they held a commemoration of the Massacre, presided over by Bishop Belo and Jose Xanana Gusmão. The solemn proceedings included Veronica Pereira Maia's symbolic 'theatre', a re-enactment with local youths on the ground beside Tais Don laid in the form of The Cross. It is Veronica Pereira Maia's vision for the Tais Don to be part of a permanent memorial or museum to the Massacre.
In Darwin and Sydney after a welcome to country and Catholic Mass, Veronica Pereira Maia worked at her backstrap loom and was accompanied by music, poetry readings and film screenings containing interviews with the artists and footage of demonstrations commemorating the massacre. In Darwin almost a decade later, before the opening of Elastics she reminded Maria Madeira of cultural performances in a Portuguese refugee camp with young Maria Madeira under her instruction. Now, in her mid-80s Donna Veronica Pereira Maia is active as an artist, teacher and innovator. It was an honour for the great Tais Don artwork to be shown again in Darwin, so close to the original exhibition site.
The Elastics exhibition in Darwin commemorates and extends the achievement of the Tuba-rai metin project and the pioneering work of local activists in using artistic collaboration, tradition and culture for political transformation. Both art project and political cell and their overlapping memberships began in response to the 1991 Santa Cruz Massacre. The response of AFFET and their programme encompasses posters, publications, banners, performances, street theatre, demonstrations, pickets and the planning of Tuba-rai metin. Over four days Narelle Jubelin and Fiona MacDonald transcribed Jude Conway’s historical account of Darwin-based Australians For A Free East Timor (AFFET, active 1991 to 2003) onto the curtain glass windows of the Chan Contemporary Art Space (chalk pen on curtain glass windows, 2.76 m x 26 m), predominately in white but punctuated by black paragraphs. The politically charged nature of the project location in the Chan Artspace — as site of Tuba Rai Metin and a focal point for many AFFET demonstrations — was a fortunate outcome of a late decision by the Northern Territory Government to accept the proposal. Conway's text recounts events and actions often taking place outside the Federal Department of Immigration and Foreign Affairs or the Northern Territory Assembly — both buildings adjacent to the art space. (Text: Jude Conway, 'AFFET Account' (draft 2013). At http://hass.unsw.adfa.edu.au/timor_companion/countdown_to_freedom/jude_conway.php)
|Elastic / Borracha / Elástico at Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin, showing: Maria Madeira artist's collection of tais on temporary fencing, Elastic print set and Victor da Sousa paintings and three video installations (rear wall), 2014.||Veronica Pereira Maia, Tais Don (1995-96). Artists: Veronica Pereira Maia, Maria Madeira, Narelle Jubelin, Fiona MacDonald, Victor De Sousa. Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin.
|Veronica Pereira Maia (right) with one of the five Tais Don (1995-96) woven at Humpty Doo, NT. Ikat textiles to commemorate the names of the dead in the Santa Cruz Massacre, Dili 1991.
||Veronica Pereira Maia (centre kneeling) with the Tais Don (1995-96) to re-enact the 1991 Dili Massacre with Bishop Belo and José Ramos Horta at Santa Cruz Church on 12 November 2000.|
Narelle Jubelin and Fiona MacDonald, Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin 2014. Transcription work chalk pen on curtain glass windows, 2.76 m x 26 m
|Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin 2014. Detail of transcription work on curtain glass windows, 2.76 m x 26 . Text: Jude Conway, 'AFFET Story' (draft), 2013.|
|Elastic / Borracha / Elástico: View of transcription text through window at Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin. Showing tais on temporary fencing. Fiona MacDonald, Open Archive, inter-weave documentary photographs, 2014.
||Narelle Jubelin and Fiona MacDonald, Chan Contemporary Art Space, Darwin 2014. Detail of Transcription Work on curtain glass windows, 2.76 m x 26 m.
Contemporary Issues, 2014.
16 works. Mixed media and sewing on paper, each work 42 x 29.5 cm, unframed.
Open Archive 1, 2014 and Open Archive 2, 2014. (Emilea Onzinda, Cecilia Baros). Each work Inkjet print on archival paper, 50 x 300 cm
|Elastic / Borracha / Elástico: Veronica Pereira Maia leads a Timorese welcome to start the 'Naha Biti' Collaborative Painting performance led by Elastic artist Maria Madeira and Artist and community participants. Artists: Veronica Pereira Maia, Victor De Sousa Pereira, Duwun Lee, Koulla Roussos, Michelle Culpitt, Karen Mills, Narelle Jubelin, Fiona MacDonald, Talitha Kennedy, Jonathan Saunders, Maurice O’Riordan, Sarah Pirrie, Simon Cooper, Aly de Groot.
||Elastic / Borracha / Elástico, Talks: Alistair Wyvill, barrister, convener of 'Common Issues: Common Solutions?' conference held in Dili, July 2014. Illus is Maritime Boundary. Also: Louise Partos, Executive Officer of Artback NT, organiser of Bacau Music and Art Festival, Timor-Leste and Angus Cameron, curator/director Nomad Art, Darwin on WithOneSeed social enterprise with activities in Timor-Leste.
|Still from Uma Lulik: A Casa Sagrada (The Sacred House), DVD 52 min
||Still from Uma Lulik: A Casa Sagrada (The Sacred House), DVD 52 min|
Timor Leste is one of Darwin’s closest neighbours, located about 400 miles away so, appropriately, Veronica Pereira Maia and Maria Madeira with Duwun Lee and Nadine Lee led a Timorese / Larrakia welcome to start the 'Naha Biti' (stretching the mat) process: a collaborative introduction to people and place and a painting with artists and activists working with betel nut and earth natural pigments (from Timor, Larrakia and Tiwi). The concept of ‘stretching the mat’ borrows from the method of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), now the Chega! Exhibition (Stop Enough!) and CAVR Archive located in Dili’s horrific former Balide Prison to help heal deep wounds. The performance and ceremony reminded us of the stark political and economic environment of Timor Leste's reconstruction and the artists wish to generate sustainable cross-cultural practices where there is little cultural infrastructure.
The print set Elastic / Borracha / Elástico salutes the tradition of informative printmaking and travelling exhibitions in third world decolonisation and democratisation struggles such as the independence movements in Africa and South America. Particular examples of the tradition are folios published on Nelson Mandela by the ANC in South Africa and those commemorating the death of Che Guevara (1928-1967) published by Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos. This tribute is to artists and artisans. The artists presented a gift of the print set to the City of Darwin to honour its work with Dili as a part of a national local project of sister city relationships between Timor-Leste and Australia initiated by Jose Xanana Gusmão. The print set now hangs in the entry lobby of the Darwin Town Hall. An exhibition set is held in the Northern Territory Library, Parliament House.
The heirs to this popular tradition include the Istoria Timor-Leste Husi, a colour poster set and publication (2008) that are part of the remarkable permanent exhibition at the Balide Comarca in Dili, produced by the Comissão de Acolhimento, Verdade e Reconciliação (CAVR, 2002–05). The Elastics print set also acknowledges South-East Asian printmakers working in this collective tradition especially pioneers like Australia's Tin Sheds and Redback Graphix. Current initiatives are supported by Big Fag Press and Red Hand Prints and in Timor Leste by the work of Gembel Art Collective / Culture Kitchen and their partnership with the renowned Taring Padi.
Elastic / Borracha / Elástico is presented by The Cross Art Projects and Northern Centre for Contemporary Art.
Thanks to future venue Sentru Kultural Xanana, Dili.
Maria Madeira is an artist, teacher and cultural adviser committed to conveying East Timor’s culture and traditions to future generations. She studied at Curtin University (B.A. Fine Arts 1991, Graduate Diploma of Education [Major in Art] 1993) and at Murdoch University (B.A. in Political Science, 1996). She is fluent in English, Portuguese and Tetum, and is studying Bahasa Indonesian. Since 2001 she has worked in Dili as an interpreter and translator including working in 2004 for the United Nation Serious Crimes Unit investigating Crimes Against Humanity committed in 1999 and 2000. Maria was a volunteer art teacher at the Arte Moris art school in Dili providing free tuition to local youths. Maria recently exhibited Ina Luo (Mother Earth) at prestigious Galeri Cipta II in Central Jakarta. She has held over fifteen solo or group exhibitions of her painting, sculpture, drawings, mixed media collages and installations, across Australia, Portugal, Macau, Brazil, China, Indonesia and East Timor. Maria lives in Dili.
Victor de Sousa is an artist and filmmaker. Victor's large-scale canvases combine traditional cultural forms and design motifs with strong ideas about cultural renewal as he continues to study and document Timorese traditional weaving, architecture and cultural belief. Victor’s first major work, Uma Lulik (Sacred House), was screened at the 2011 Brisbane International Film Festival and is widely celebrated as the first film by an indigenous Timor Leste filmmaker. Uma Lulik has since been shown in international film festivals from Mozambique to Paris. The film also screened within Narelle Jubelin’s exhibition at CAM Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon (2013). Victor has made a number of short films and worked as cinematographer on several more. Victor studied painting at the Dili arts collective Arte Moris and was invited to work as Artist in Residence at Griffith University Film School in Brisbane (2010). Later Victor joined Catalan designer/filmmaker David Palazón at the Academy of Creative Industries project and his Dili design practice IDA. He lives in Dili and Venilale in Timor Leste.
Fiona MacDonald is known for her installations of bodies of work that draw on regional archives and collections, cultural traditions, social and natural histories. Her installations take the form of conversations about undercurrents in social processes of inclusion and exclusion — including aesthetics. Hence, the decorative arts and crafts such as collage, weaving, wallpaper and graphic arts often inspire her work. In the last two decades, Fiona has participated in diverse exhibitions, from the Biennale of Sydney and Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art to the opening exhibition of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea, New Caledonia and shown in Tokyo, Paris, London, Washington DC and New York. Selected recent projects include the Bimblebox Art Project (2014); Cementa13, Kandos Industrial Museum (2013); Ghost Citizens: Witnessing the Intervention (2012); Feminage: the Logic of Feminist Collage; Green Bans Art Walk and Exhibition, Sydney (2011); Local Studies: Legend and Legacy, Wollongong City Gallery (2010) and Artspace Mackay (2009). She has executed several major Public Art Projects including the concept developed by ANTaR (Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation) for the Sea of Hands. Fiona MacDonald was born in Rockhampton and lives and works in Ilford, NSW.
Narelle Jubelin was co-founder of First Draft Artist Run Initiative (1986) that continues today in Sydney and is a major Australian artist. She is recognised for her installations and petit-point renditions of heavily charged photographs that allow her to explore historical lines interconnecting location and history. She is interested in the way objects travel and translate. Every detail in her work is important: the display, the frame and the site, including the journeys the work itself makes, which accrue meaning with each new display. Her intricate work creates unlikely dialogues between sewing and display in order to engage multiple meanings. She has exhibited widely from Aperto in the 1990 Venice Biennale; Places with a Past in Charleston South Carolina, a benchmark site-specific exhibition (1991); the Hayward Gallery, London (1992); Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid and the Renaissance Society, Chicago (1994); and participated in Sydney, Adelaide and Sharjah Biennales. In 2009 Narelle collaborated with Mozambican/Portuguese artist Ângela Ferreira at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and held a solo exhibition at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. She has completed complex itinerant exhibition collaborations with University Art Galleries and non-gallery cross-campus sites at Sydney University, Monash University, Melbourne and Samstag, University of South Australia 2012-13. A recent individual survey exhibition with CAM Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, was the first to incorporate material from the collaborative 2012 Timor Leste Mobile Residency where Jo Holder, co-curator on Elastics, was one of the catalogue essayists. Narelle has been living and working in Madrid since 1996.
Joined by: Veronica Pereira Maia, born in Fahorem, Suai, in the country's south-west in 1930, she is one of the few artist weavers residing outside of Timor Leste. Her tais reflect her origins in Suai, a city. Veronica fled her country after the Indonesian occupation in 1975 for a refugee camp in Portugal and taught exiles including young Maria Madeira traditional culture. She undertook residencies and exhibitions (Museo de Traje / National Museum of Costume, Lisbon). She settled in Darwin in 1985 and after the Santa Cruz Massacre in 1991 was active in AFFET and in their programme of performances, demonstrations, pickets. This included the planning of Tuba-rai metin: firmly gripping the earth, an art project and de facto political embassy installed in State Square, Darwin for the 1996 Darwin Fringe Festival. (It was refused by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.) She performed in the theatre productions ‘Diablo’ (Darwin Wharf, 1992) and ‘Spirits Cry Freedom’ (1993) and undertook workshops at Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin (1989) and Craft Council Gallery, Darwin (1995). She was honoured by the new Government of Timor Leste when the Tais Don (1995-96) was laid at Santa Cruz Church in Dili for the inaugural commemoration of the 1991 Massacre on 12 November 2000. Her work is held in public and private collections in Portugal, Japan, and Australia.
Links and Notes
Big Fag Press at www.bigfagpress.org
Narelle Jubelin at http://marlboroughcontemporary.com/artists/narelle-jubelin/
Maria Madeira ‘Ina Luo’, Galeri Cipta II, Central Jakarta, electronic catalogue (2014) at http://issuu.com/incidentaldoc/docs/ina_lou_catalogue
Fiona MacDonald at http://www.fiona-macdonald.net/
Victor de Sousa, Uma Lulik (Sacred House), 2011. Projection and dvd, 60min. Part 2 of a proposed trilogy. http://vimeo.com/34499848
'Elastic Cultural Activism' by Jo Holder, first published in Imprint Winter 2015 Vol 50 No 2. > Download pdf
Freemantle Print Award 2015 - digital catalogue
Timor Sea Justice Campaign:
It is time for the Australian Government to give East Timor a fair go in the Timor Sea. The dispute over the maritime boundary between Australia and East Timor has involved four states over five decades: Indonesia, Australia, Portugal and now East Timor. East Timor recently initiated arbitration proceedings seeking to have set aside the CMATS Treaty on the basis that it was concluded in breach of Australia’s obligations of good faith.
Please get involved or support the Timor Sea Justice Campaign at http://www.timorseajustice.com
The Maritime Boundaries of East Timor and International Law:
Dr Christopher Ward, 'The Maritime Boundaries of East Timor: the Role of International Law'. Paper presented to NTBA 2014 Dili Conference in association with the School of Law, Charles Darwin University: ‘Common Issues: Common Solutions’, Dili, Timor Leste, 10-12 July 2014.
Black Bullion, director Jen Hughes, 2004: The Howard Government's withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has forced East Timor to back down on their right to negotiate their Maritime Boundaries on an equal footing and access their resources for survival beyond the paternalism of Australia and other colonial powers. A film about the tension, for black bullion, between personal friendship and the betrayal of trust.
|Australia / East Timor Maritime Boundary Map courtesy Timor Sea Justice Campaign.
Elastics / Borracha / Elástico: Darwin <> Dili , duration 0:05:30.
Camera work by Victor De Sousa, Narelle Jubelin, Skye Raabe. Video edit by Fiona MacDonald & Moon Cube Design
The murder of five Australian journalists in Balibo in mid-October 1975 by invading Indonesian troops alerted many citizens around the world that Timorese people needed support for their demand for the right to decide their own future.
'AFP fails to question Jakarta in Balibo Five investigation' (Brisbane Times) or 'Police are yet to ask Jakarta for help' (SMH) by Philip Dorling, October 13 2014 at http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/afp-fails-to-question-jakarta-in-balibo-five-investigation-20141013-115ayu.html?skin=text-only
Opening Speakers: Francisco Jose Dos Remedios Ramos Filipe, Consul-General of the Democratic Republic of East Timor, Darwin; Gary Haslett, acting Lord Mayor, Darwin; Gary Lee; Mamilima / didgeridoo: Duwun Lee.
Public Programs: talks by Alistair Wyvill (on Timor Gap), Louise Partos (on Baucau music festival) and Angus Cameron (on One Seed project in Baucau). Talks opened by Maria Madeira and Veronica Pereira Maia with Duwun Lee and Nadine Lee, Timorese / Larrakia 'Naha Biti' (stretching the mat) welcome.
Elastic / Borracha / Elástico Collaborative painting by: Eric Bridgeman, Simon Cooper, Michelle Culpitt, Jo Holder, Winsome Jobling, Narelle Jubelin, Talitha Kennedy, Duwun Lee, Nadine Lee, Bartholomew Lockwood, Fiona MacDonald, Amina McConvell, Karen Mills, Maurice O’Riordan, Victor De Sousa Pereira, Sarah Pirrie, Skye Raabe, Jonathan Saunders and Darwin activists and Friends of Timor Leste. An in situ performance work opening the Elastic talks, Saturday 20 September 2014.
Production and other collaborators: AFFET activists in Darwin and elsewhere (Illana Eldridge, Dulcie Munn, Rob Wesley Smith, Vaughan Williams), Big Fag Press (Louise Anderson, Pat Armstrong, Diego Bonetto, Lucas Ihlien), Phillip Boulten, Eleanor Bosler, José Casimiro, Gloriade Casto, Jude Conway, Chan Contemporary Art Space (Simon Cooper), Marcos Corrales, Nelson Corrales Jubelin, Michelle Culpit, Darkstar Digital (Richard Crampton), NCCA (Maurice O’Riordan, Matty van Roden, Cora Diviny, Regis Martin, Amina McConvell), Farrell Printers (Rob Farrell), Herculano Gutteres, Maria Madalena Gutteres, Virginia Hyam, Phillip Irwin, Mary Jane Jacob, Jasco Art Supplies (Marcia Collins), Patricia Leal, Mattias Madeira, Terezinha Madeira, João Mártires, Karen Mills, Moon Cube Design (Kim Scott), Fiona Morrison, Filipa Oliviera, David Palazón, Skye Raabe, Vitorino Dos Santos, Jasmin Stephens, Timor Aid (Rosalia Soares, Anne Finch, Jo Barrkman), Buzz Sanderson, Meret MacDonald, Parkers Sydney Fine Art Supplies, Sarah Pirrie, Penelope Seidler, Petronila De Sousa, Filosmena Ximenes, José Ximenes. Timor Aid in Dili facilitated the artists’ travels, as did the late Melbourne-based independent curator, Jennifer Phipps. Upcoming catalogue dedicated to Jennifer Phipps.
The artists were assisted by an Asia in Australia Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts.