Published on 10th August 2016
Written by Alex Wilson (accompanying partner to VSA volunteer Marie-Jo Wilson)
Our very own Nene Correia de Almeida, VSA Country Programme Officer in Timor-Leste, has just published his first book ‘Kultura No Natureza Ema Atoni Oe-Kusi – Ambeno’ or The Culture and Nature of the people of Oe-Kusi - Ambeno.
In 2012 Nene won an MFAT scholarship, going on to complete his MA in International Relations at Victoria University in Wellington. He has maintained a close connection to New Zealand since then, and is always on hand to help out the local volunteers when local insight is needed. Using interviews with over 200 local people as well as other sources, this oral history focuses on the Culture and Nature of Oecusse, a unique part of Timor-Leste that Nene calls home. A wealth of history was uncovered during the study, that took several years to complete, and highlighted the strong pre-colonial era beliefs, practices and structures that survive to this day despite several hundred years of colonisation and occupation.
Oecusse is an exclave of Timor-Leste surrounded by Indonesia on all sides but bordered on the Northern side by the Savu Sea, it was originally the capital of Timor in the 1560s before being moved to Dili in the 1760s by the Portuguese. Its political isolation has given it a unique character captured in this book.
Along with co-authors Jose Tacain and Paulo Bacun, Nene has spent several years producing one of the first studies of customs and history from largely oral histories in this area. The project started in 2014 solely as a means of collecting and preserving the often forgotten voice and memories of everyday people. As the interviews revealed more and more data, it became clear that a book should be written. The book proposes that one of the key elements to preserving the exclaves identity was the unifying effect of having a king, this royal line is still recognised in the area with the current king Antonio Hermenegildo Da Costa carrying on the tradition.