Timorese crocodile awakes at CMAG

THE sleeping crocodile has awoken, Canberra Friends of Dili tell us—and there’s art to prove it, courtesy of Dili’s quirky Arte Moris Gallery, whose artists provided the keynote image of conquering lion and awakening crocodile for an illustrated travel diary that follows an eye-opening friendship visit of ten Canberrans to Timor-Leste during 2010.

The Lion and the Awakening Crocodile (courtesy Arte Moris Gallery)

The Lion and the Awakening Crocodile (courtesy Arte Moris Gallery)

Readers will recall that a formal friendship agreement was struck between Canberra and the district of Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, under 2010 visited cemented that relationship.

To the Canberra Friends of Dili, the lion represents outsider-oppressors (including Australians at times) and the crocodile is an ancient symbol for the ordinary people of Timor-Leste.

As a regular visitor to the country, I can testify to having seen and been fascinated by crocodile carvings in quite conservative Catholic churches there, intriguing locations for animist symbolism that still runs deep.

“Land of the sleeping crocodile” is a common term for the country.

“Ten Canberrans and the Sleeping Crocodile,” written by historian Dr Stephen Utick and illustrated with 65 colour pictures, is a quick way to learn about Timor-Leste, its people, language, geography and history.

It covers in some detail, ceremonies, legends, community and political issues, Flora Fuller, sanitation, sport and it even includes a few Tetun words for visitors.

Dr Utick and the secretary of the Friends of Dili, Robert Altamore, painted a picture to Citynews of the 2010 visit, which encompassed 10 of the country’s 13 districts from Suai in the southwest to Valu Sere in the far east.

Altamore, who is blind, often relied upon his travelling at current companions from many of his impressions, more often he found himself uniquely placed to respond to the sounds laughing children, squealing pigs, noisy dogs on all sounds that make up village life in this welcoming country.

What was their chief impression of Timor-Leste? “children, children, children everywhere.”

Little girl of the fields, Nunara River

Little girl of the fields, Nunara River

CMAG has invited everyone to come and celebrate the birthday from 2pm this Saturday, February 16, for cake, art activities for children, a new exhibition and the book launch.

ABC 666’s Local Content Manager Andrea Ho will open the exhibition, “Canberra on air: 60 years of ABC Local Radio,” which shows historic equipment, t-shirts, posters,photographs, memorabilia and awards, and the 666 Community Choir will lead a singalong and a round of Happy Birthday.

The diary, “Ten Canberrans and the Sleeping Crocodile,” will be launched by Ambassador for Timor Leste, Abel Guterres, at the CanberraMuseum and Gallery on February 16 at 3.30pm. Copies of the book ($15) are available at 0423 931 753 or altamr@bigpond.com

All Saturday’s events are free, but please RSVP for catering on 6207 3968 or cmagbookings@act.gov.au



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