Timor-Leste frienship with Ballarat on show

Youth art: Arte Ramelau group leader Andrew Miller at the Mac-Space Gallery. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.
Youth art: Arte Ramelau group leader Andrew Miller at the Mac-Space Gallery. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric.

Ballarat’s connection with the East Timor town of Ainaro and its burgeoning arts community is on show at Mac-Space gallery.

The city’s friendship with the town began in 2003, when Australian communities were encouraged to reach out to the newly independent nation.

“Ainaro’s is very much a subsistence lifestyle, based very much on agriculture,” group leader Andrew Miller, who was a member in the first delegation to East Timor 14 years ago, said.

“It was a village that had clearly experienced a lot of upset after 25 years of occupation and they welcomed the interest from Ballarat in a significant way and we were generally moved by their wish to take up the friendship of Ballarat.”

An art group was established in conjunction with community elders in 2010, and the art group Arte Ramelau Youth Arts was formed two years later.

“We look for opportunities to work with young people, there’s little employment but we saw the opportunity in an art space to understand how to run a small business,” Mr Miller said.

“Art is a good way for them to express their culture, it’s also an opportunity for leadership skills. We’ve established a committee.”

Each year a group of Australian arts educators and artists travel to Ainaro to share their skills and knowledge with Timorese young people.

The Australian artists are self-funded and with limited funding have been able to engage three or four Timorese artists to join them for a month for practical workshops in Ainaro.

The art space was developed through a crowdfunding campaign to cover initial costs. Ongoing funding comes through Ballarat-Ainaro friendship groups and from the sales of art works brought back and exhibited in Ballarat. Proceeds from all artworks sold at the Mac Space Gallery exhibition will go towards the Arte Ramelau project. Arte Ramelau Youth Arts is on at Mac Space-Gallery, 110 Armstrong Street South. The exhibition will be on display until the end of June from 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to noon on Saturday.