Photos from East Timor

 

The people of East Timor

The population of approximately one million East Timorese people has grown recently, both because of the high birthrate and the return of refugees. Most people are of mixed Malayo-Polynesian and Melanesian/Papuan descent, with the largest Malayo-Polynesian ethnic group being the Tetum (or Tetun) with about 100,000 members; they live primarily in the north coast and around Dili. Their language, Tetum, a Malayo-Polynesian language of the Austronesian language family, is one of the official languages of the nation. Traditionally the Tetum inhabited the south central area of the island. Other smaller ethnic groups, many with their own languages, live in small, scattered communities. In the east the Fataluku, who traditionally built elevated houses with characteristic high-pitched roofs, speak a language that belongs to the Papuan family; Timor is in the transition area between Asia and Melanesia.

The overwhelming majority of the East Timorese is Roman Catholic. The Portuguese brought Catholicism to East Timor in 1515, However, when Indonesia invaded the country in 1975, the majority (72 %) of the population remained animist. During the occupation, the importance of Catholicism grew as the Church was the main provider of protection, the vehicle of non-violent protest and outspoken about the brutalities suffered by the people. It became a rallying point for the freedom fighting movement, consequently during this time many converted to Catholicism.

For the visitor East Timor is a very friendly and welcoming place. Although the people have suffered greatly during the Indonesian occupation and the violence and destruction following the vote for independence in 1999, they have proved to be very resilient. They are proud of their hard-won independence and look forward to a better future.

The children are East Timor's future; cheerful, friendly and self-sufficient, they grow up without much material wealth but with love and security. Kids romp around along the beaches, play, go to school, help their parents, look after their younger siblings and express a curiosity for the visitor with the camera. They are courteous, greeting you with a happy "bom dia" (Good Day, in Portuguese but also now in the Tetum language), and eagerly pose for photos, delighted to see themselves on the little screen of a digital camera.


Young boy, Naimeco
Young boy, Naimeco

Young boys, Naimeco
Young boys, Naimeco

Boys from Dili
Boys from Dili

Men of Dili
Men of Dili

Girl from Dili
Girl from Dili

Boy with iceblock
Boy with iceblock

Carrying little brother
Carrying little brother

Boy from Dili
Boy from Dili

Mother and daughters
Mother and daughters

On Dili beach
On Dili beach

Selling fish
Selling fish

Fisherman with catch
Fisherman with catch

Dili fisherman
Dili fisherman

Boys with fish
Boys with fish

Girls of Maubisse
Girls of Maubisse

Maubisse girl
Maubisse girl

Small girl of Maubisse
Small girl of Maubisse

Boys of Maubisse
Boys of Maubisse

Boy from Maubisse
Boy from Maubisse

Girl of Maubisse
Girl of Maubisse

Men in a shop
Men in a shop

Boys from Ainaro
Boys from Ainaro

Boy selling fish
Boy selling fish

Boy of Manatuto
Boy of Manatuto

Boys of Venilale
Boys of Venilale

Venilale boys
Venilale boys

Boys of Tutuala
Boys of Tutuala

Back from laundry
Back from laundry

Young man of Tutuala
Young man of Tutuala

Girl of Tutuala
Girl of Tutuala

Father and sons
Father and sons

Boys from Mehara
Boys from Mehara

Girl from Maliana
Girl from Maliana

Girls of Balibo
Girls of Balibo

Open air market
Open air market

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