Shared Traditions: The communities of Malaka Regency


The people of the Malaka Regency of West Timor claim to be descendants of those who moved from Portuguese East Timor (Timor-Leste) to Indonesian West Timor in the 1900s. It was during the Manufahi Wars between the Portuguese colonisers and the indigenous people when refugees from Kamanasa, Bolan, Kletek, Suai, and Matai in East Timor arrived in what is now the regency of Malaka in West Timor, they set up traditional villages similar to those of their homeland, using the same names.

The similarity can be seen in the layout of the village and the construction methods of their traditional houses. According to some of the elders in the West Timorese villages, cuttings of Banyan trees from the Timor-Leste villages were brought and replanted in the replica villages. These Banyan trees are now fully grown and not only function as the center for ceremonial activities, but also remain a visible sign of the strong bond that the communities have with their villages of origin.

Now, the inhabitants of some of these villages are likely to be displaced once again due to proposed national infrastructure projects on or close to their village sites. For this reason, Timor Aid is conducting a number of research studies in these villages and their ‘mirror’ villages in West Timor to explore the closely related cultural practices between these peoples, who are now members of two different nation states.

Cultural Research

Timor Aid (Timor-Leste) and Bebali Foundation (Indonesia) conducted field research over two months in the West Timorese villages of Kamanasa, Bolan, Kletek/Suai, Matai, and Wanibesak. This research covered the similarities between the Timor-Leste and West Timor ‘mirror’ villages, including village layout, traditional house construction methods, ritual ceremonies, and textile production and uses. This publication documents the outcomes of this research.

Cultural Workshop

The Cultural Workshop component of this project was held on August 26 and August 27, 2014 and was hosted by the traditional weaving cooperative Nek Mese in Bokong, West Timor. The event was attended by eleven weavers from Kamanasa, Bolan, Kletek/Suai, Matai, and Wanibesak from the Malaka Regency. Two weavers from the village of Abi in South Central Timor also joined the workshop.
During the workshop, the participating weavers shared their experiences of, and knowledge about, their own cultures and the art of making traditional textiles, including the types and uses of traditional textiles in their communities, the availability of dye plants, and the natural dyeing process. The outcomes of the workshop are documented in this publication.


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