East Timor Cultural Design

Timor-Leste, more commonly known as East Timor, is a small island nation just off the Northern coast of Australia. It is one of the world’s newest nations after gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002 after a horrific civil war that has claimed many lives and severely crippled buildings and its economy. East Timor has one of the highest unemployment rates and lowest literacy levels in the world and is contrasted by its closest neighbor, Indonesia, in its manufacturing. However the nation has a colourful background and could be considered rich in culture, added by the colonisation by the Portuguese, despite being under the category of a “third-world country”.


            Without a strong and stable economy, East Timor is unable to create a large manufacturing industry that can compete competitively with imported products. It is however abundant in natural resources such as agriculture to grow coffee beans and fossil fuels which around 90% of the workforce service on off shore oil rigs. This has meant that it is one of the fastest growing economies but currently most of the population survive on micro economies that produce a wide range of small items. These include the traditional ‘Tais’ that hold sentimental  value to pieces of art that tells a story and gives insight to the experience of that individual to events that are so little is known about.


            The Tais is a strip of cloth that has been woven to create a decorative piece that can be used in the house or as a piece that goes around your shoulders. Each town generally has its own individual colours and patterns it incorporates into the design with their own meanings and can have slogans running along the material. The women traditionally do this which gives females the ability to create income aswell and empowers women which has been a major goal in the country. Tais’ can be added to the number of small desirable items produced in the country along with soaps and coffee that ultimately aim to entice tourists. The main aim for the future of the nation is to become a tourist hotspot, much like Bali or Phuket.


            It is interesting to explore the current state of East Timor as it is where my heritage stems from and growing up with tales told by my parents, it is quite clear that there has been extraordinary change and development in the nation. For a long time now I have always wanted to have this experience first hand and travel to the towns my parents grew up in but relatives who have taken this unique journey have warned about the ever present dangers that has still not been cleansed from the country. This just goes to show, despite the announcement of its independence, how deep the cuts were from all the conflicts that occurred not very long ago in its history.


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