In his magico-realist depictions of life and times in East Timor during the 1960s, Luís Cardoso writes about sharks as transmuted forms of ancestors: ‘No one from the island was ever lost. Sometimes they lived in the sea, sometimes on the land. These cycles demanded their due if they were to continue’ (2000:21). In a variety of evocative encounters, Cardoso draws attention to certain Timorese cultural notions of attachment and agency in relation to land and its living forms that are constituted in terms of spiritual and moral authority. Across Timor, engagement with the emplaced ‘spirit’ realm is an enduring cultural value. It forms an important component of customary landownership and connections to land among the dispersed rural populations who rely on the blessings and providence of the natural environment to secure their livelihoods. Cardoso’s reference to the rai nain—the ‘lord of the earth’—speaks to this cultural orientation and provides a starting point for understanding the nature of Timorese customary land relationships.
|Title of host publication
|Land and life in Timor-Leste: ethnographic essays
|Andrew McWilliam and Elizabeth G. Traube
|Place of Publication
|Published - 2011