Khalil Gibran, the famous Lebanon poet was waiting for me in a kiosk across the roundabout street of Villa-Nova city in Baucau. I saw him through his cover, a tightly wrapped book in plastic yet it is dusty because the cars and motorbike were passed by throwing its dusty greeting.
With some notes of Dollars I left for the kiosk owner, I brought Gibran home with me, barely knowing him. Together, we rode the microlete and look at each other with hidden smile trying to avoid the questioned look of other people in the microlete. I guess Gibran might be another storyteller I would spend my long night with in silence.
It’s 8 pm at home. I finished my dinner. The dishes are done. I knew I was ready to join Mr. Gibran in my bedroom.
“Good evening Mr. Gibran” I said while opening the plastic wrap off him. It felt like uncovering the veil of the bride for the first time. How awkward yet exciting to get to know him page by page before the first page. His title. Secrets of the Heart .
“So you are a poet Mr. Gibran,” I said and keep reading him through the page. Reading every line of the verses. I completely lost in every words of him.
“Mr. Gibran, how could words transformed in such They are hypnotically romantic and ironic at the same time. a magical way that it could touch the mind and soul? Even God becomes closer to you in words.”
“Poetry is not an opinion expressed. It is a song that rises from a bleeding wound or a smiling mouth,” Gibran said in smile.
That night we end up sailing in the ocean of poetry.
“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” ― Ansel Adams
If there were a simple and practical way of time travelling around us today, then I would say that photography is one of it.
My first time encounter with David Palazon was back in 2013, at the office of the State Secretariat of Art and Culture (SSAC) in Villa Verde (today has moved to Praia dos Coqueiros Street), Dili, when I was working with UNESCO Art and Culture Programme as an administrative and programme assistant. At first sight, as a Timorese, I was a bit curious of David with his presence as a malae (foreigner in Tetum). Why does this malae willing to travel far away from Spain to Timor just to do all these fancy work of photography and all related stuff?
Before joining the UNESCO Art and Culture team, I used to think that art and culture is something fancy and has to be luxurious. But being introduced to David Palazon’s work as photographer and having the opportunity to witness his work with SSAC on the preservation programme of the tangible and intangible art and cultural heritage of Timor-Leste, made me realize the importance of art and culture documentation and preservation for Timor-Leste.
On doing his work of documenting the art and cultural events and objects in Timor-Leste through photography and videographical work, I saw that David’s passion and enthusiasm are painted in each of his work pieces. In gathering all these artistic and meaningful documentation, David also engaged the Timorese fellows in a collaborative work and together each of them express their messages on each photographical work they have produced on how rich the Timor-Leste art and culture is. From that time, I start to believe that Timor-Leste is indeed a wonderful land of art and culture and I would always admire it and appreciate it as a Timorese.
However, despite being Timorese and one can say being the owner of all this Timorese richness of art and culture heritage, a question rose in mind, how can we continue to value and preserve these heritage of art of culture? How can we share the beauty of this value of Timor-Leste art and culture to our fellow Timorese and to the world around us? As Timorese, we may already carry out the role of valuing and preserving by maintaining the continuous practice of the heritage. On the other hand, in the context of Timor-Leste’s fluctuating development progress, more effort is necessary to encourage the act of valuing and preserving the Timor-Leste art and culture. One of these efforts, as I would concern, is to have the documentation. As without it, we would lose some significant things in life.
Timor Runguranga is indeed has answered that concern of mine in a very artistic, satirical, mindful and yet heart-touching ways. When I received David’s invitation to attend the launching of the book in Timor Aid last year, I was kind of wondering, what exactly this photographical book would look like? The title word runguranga itself has caught my attention so much as it made think about messiness because runguranga as I understood it in Tetum, is everything related to messy and messiness. I had no idea why I pick up the book home only to keep it as collection and open a glimpse of it sometimes when I have a bit of free time. But once opening it, I start to promise myself that I have to go through the book and I did it at last.
After reading each page one by one, I laugh at myself on how I have underestimated this book. For me, looking at the pictures displayed inside it, has gave that sense of looking at the old family photo in a thick photo album. So nostalgic and emotional until you want to smile, laugh, frown and cry at the same time. Why? Because this book has captured how life has going on in Timor-Leste lately since its independence in 2000s. Within the decades, the runguranga essence that kept decorating the independence progress of Timor-Leste has brought us to learn many things as a new emerging country and that being runguranga has shaped us to grow along with the turmoil of the modern globalized world.
This book, being as a diary and memoir, has also capture the exchange of feelings as well as the exchange of collaboration between the insider and outsider who met in this small world of Timor-Leste and entwined them both in a world of rungurunga that only each of them can perceived when they were here. As some wise man has said; do not judge a book by its cover or do not judge people by its outer appearance then I would say do not judge a country if you have not been there. This book will confirm that saying with the collaborative work it displayed and the emotional sense each source person has shared.
This is why I found this book to be one of the inspiring photographic books I have ever seen. Apart of being a photo album, diary or memoir, this book, is also a fairytale storybook of Timor-Leste that one may share to their friends, family and children who would like to visit Timor-Leste or to see Timor-Leste in the past decades. I would also say that this book would be a collection of inspiration and motivation for me as a Timorese, to help advocate the art and culture preservation in Timor-Leste. As for the visitors who would like to know about Timor-Leste this book is very recommendable as an indirect tour guide.
To conclude, I would like to say that Timor Runguranga is the answer of my first impression quest to David himself which today I have called as maun (brother in Tetum) David, on why he is willing to travel from far-far- away land of Spain to Timor-Leste. By reflecting his Gulliverian journey throughout all territory of Timor-Leste in this book, I would call him ‘the male version of Alice in Wonderland’.