The Edge of Living Memory

The Buehler Collection of MKB and the people of Baguia

In 2014, Timor Aid hosted Joanna Barrkman as an Australian Award Endeavour Fellow to conduct research in the Baguia sub-district of Baucau district. This research was about the Baguia Collection, which included cultural objects and a collection of historical photographs illustrating the landscape and the daily life of the community from 1935. The collection belonged to the Museum der Kulturen, Basel in Switzerland. The objects were acquired from Baguia in 1935 by Dr. Alfred Buhler and Dr. Willy Meyer with the assistance of an interpreter named Mr. Mohammad.

The aims of the project were to bring back photographs of the Baguia Collection objects to the communities and research deeply their function and history. The researchers visited eight sucos (villages) and created slideshows to project the photographs to the communities. The communities were very pleased to see the old objects and photographs and some of them felt sad and their tears fell because their ancestor’s lives were very poor and lacked food and cloths. Some elderly people were reminded of their life stories, some sad and some happy.

The researchers interviewed some textile weavers, baskets makers, silver smith makers and wooden plate makers. They also gathered more information from the communities, especially the elders.
A further aspect of the research involved sessions with the school children in some of the Baguia schools, including Eskola Primária Filial Hau-dere, Pré Sekundaria São José Baguia (Junior High School) and SMA Baguia (Senior School). Children were asked to draw musical instruments which they learnt about from the Baguia Collection. Other activities included giving some photographs of cultural objects to the students to take home and to research with their older family members and neighbours.

In addition, the researchers went to some communities’ sacred houses to see the sacred objects that they worshiped and interviewed the owners of the houses. The researchers also documented some ritual ceremonies that were performed during the research period in Kaicasa, Alaua Craik and Larisula.

The field research period of the Endeavour Fellowship was between July 2014 and December 2014. The Timor Aid team was led by Jaquelina Maria de Fátima Ximenes, Research Assistant and interpreter for the full period of the award.

It is hoped that in time the full Baguia Collection of the Museum der Kulturen Basel will be online, together with the results of this research project.