Monday, November 1, 2010

In pictures: where has culture gone?

Last week I went to a cultural festival at the base of East Timor's highest mountain, Ramelau.  The purpose of this amazing gathering was to provide an opportunity for young people from Timor-Leste's 13 diverse districts to come together and showcase their culture.  It was a great celebration of Timorese tradition and an opportunity for young people to meet and interact in a way that wouldn't ordinarily be possible.

While day-to-day these young people live in the modern world of jeans, t-shirts, cell phones and mp3 players, their cultural identity is obviously alive and well.  It was great to see youth celebrating their tradition so proudly, through the creative means of music and dance.

It was a real festival atmosphere!
Young people from all over the country gathered to show off their talent & traditions
A professional dance troupe combines traditional and modern elements in a celebration of Timorese identity
A woman wears her traditional hand woven (!!) cloth and a bell bracelet.

It made me wistful in many ways for my own lost cultural heritage.  What were the dances my ancestors performed to mark the passage of time or special occasions?  What were the words they sang, what did they wear?  My heritage is mostly British, Scottish and Welsh, yet none of those traditions were passed on down to me.  I guess in the New World people made new traditions - but where have those gone?  Apart from my tendency to don a cowboy hat when embarking on an adventure, I can't really say that I have carried any of those traditions, either.

I feel that in the Western world, many of us feel the emptiness of this cultural vaccum.  We grasp at spiritual traditions from the past, including goddess-worship, paganism, and yes, yoga, we try to create new traditions that we feel reflect our values more than our modern commercialized holidays.  These traditions are no longer celebrated on a communal level, but built in isolation around our nuclear-family model.

So much we have lost along the way...  I wish this country luck and strength in preserving their amazing cultural identity.  What are your cultural or family traditions?


  1. i would love to see those dances.

  2. Beautiful pics Bree- and they look so joyful! The photo of the hand weaving reminded me of the lovely scarf you gave me.

    When we used to take English dances to international festivals, we were always struck by how much virtually every other country (including Scotland, Wales and Ireland) valued their traditional culture- except the English. We also had to travel to Canada, Germany, France or Denmark to find our own unique traditions valued and not mocked! We got a rapturous response to English Sword dancing in Quebec!

  3. @Lila - yes, it was beautiful!
    @Connie - It's the irony of it, isn't it? We are fascinated by other cultures while our own are "uncool". :)