8 – 19 August 201

Dili

Sometime April this year, we attended ADEX in Singapore. Yogi & I were invited by John Thet, publisher of Asian Geographic Magazine as well as Asian Diver and ScubaDiver Australasia, to give a series of public slideshows on The Coral Triangle.  In one of the days when we were gallivanting around the halls, a well dressed man in a grey suit made a beeline for Yogi and said, “I have a personally signed letter from President José Ramos-Horta of Timor Leste for you!”  “HUH?! Say that again? I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.” replied Yogi. So, our now good friend Sean Ferguson-Borrel repeats what he said and brought us to his booth in ADEX, hands over the letter and said, “it would be an honour for Timor-Leste to have Mr. Freund over as the Ambassador to the Environment and to judge the inaugural Timor-Leste Underwater Photo Competition this coming October.” WELL,  needless to say, we were bowled over. You don’t hear that everyday.

But was it fateful serendipity or just random coincidence that we had to go to Timor-Leste to finish photographing the 6th and last country of the Coral Triangle for this expedition?!  The newest nation on earth needed to be shown and we were there for almost two weeks to photograph it.  Timor-Leste is a small country right beside its border of Indonesian West Timor. Due to its turbulent recent history with its neighbouring country, they now have a very young population left.  Close to half of East Timorese are younger than 15 years old, and a lot of its mid adult population of age 40 up were eerily and conspicuously not there. That said, we still got to see many older adults and some amazing culture.  For a young nation, they have a pretty old and thriving living culture and this blog entry is a tribute to the People of Timor-Leste.

A traditional headgear called kaibauk adorn this man's head as he performs a dance in the side street of Comoro

A traditional headgear called kaibauk adorn this man’s head as he performs a dance  with his group in the side street of Comoro to welcome a religious relic coming down from the mountains

A regal looking performer. She had a well worn looking brass gong that made the dancers dance to her beat

A regal looking performer. She had a worn out looking brass gong that made the dancers dance to her beat

A woman plays her well pounded drum or babadok as they perform non-stop one Sunday afternoon in the streets of Comoro

A woman plays her well pounded drum or babadok as they perform non-stop one Sunday afternoon in the streets of Comoro

This man holds up his sword or surik and has a smile in his face all the time that he was dancing

This man holds up his sword or surik and has a smile in his face all the time that he was dancing

Then, we went on a day trip out of Dili one day and saw the countryside. Our last stop was a place called Maubara where there is an refurbished Portuguese Fort and cafe where they served some great locally grown coffee. A funny character in traditional garb walked about but he refused to have his picture taken. But when we went to the public market, there were loads of people dressed to the nines, Timorese style. Again we were serendipitously at the right place and perfectly timed. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão was in town to talk to the people of Maubara! We brought out our black cloth and had an instant studio amongst the vegetables and chickens. Here are some stunning characters:

Hand woven clothes called tais, each district had their own traditional design and this tais is from Maubara

Hand woven clothes called tais, each district had their own traditional design and this tais is distinctly from Maubara

We'll start off with some beautiful children. They sat for their portait in Maubara (West of Dili) after performing for the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao

And some beautiful children. They sat for their portrait in Maubara (West of Dili) after performing for the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão with drums wedged in their armpit

Great faces etched with character

Great faces etched with character

Now how about that for a portrait?! Rooster gave the final touch to this man's presence

Now how about that for a portrait?! Clucking rooster gave the final touch to this man’s presence

When we saw this man, we knew he not an ordinary man

When we saw this man, we knew he not ordinary. He was too creative looking to be ordinary!

Man with the orange headdress was the pied piper of these young performers!

Man with the orange headdress was the pied piper of these young performers!

And in amongst these young performers were beautiful maidens carrying on their centuries old tradition of dress and music

And in amongst these young performers were beautiful maidens carrying on their centuries old tradition of dress and music

And one day we were invited to a special place called Ba Futuru, a non profit development organisation that help transform lives of Timorese children through peace education. The girls in the group were performing their traditional dance and here is a little glimpse of that day:

The smallest performer in the group, she nonetheless held her own and hit her drums with ernest

The smallest performer in the group, she nonetheless held her own and hit her drums in deep concentration

The vision of Ba Futuru which in Tetun, means “For the Future.” is to transform mistrust and violence into peace and self-directed growth by supporting the people of Timor-Leste to engage in creating a positive future for themselves, their families and their communities

The vision of Ba Futuru which in Tetun, means “For the Future.” is to transform mistrust and violence into peace and self-directed growth by supporting the people of Timor-Leste to engage in creating a positive future for themselves, their families and their communities.