Referendum Candle

The new work of poetry by Timorese writer Dadolin Murak is entitled Lilin Referendu (Candle Referendum). It marks 20 eyars since the 1999 referendum in which the Timorese people voted for independence, with great bravery in the face of military violence. Below is the preface to the book by David Webster.

Poets don’t just use a language to write in. They use their words to build languages.

When the Indonesian language was being constructed, a century ago, poets like Chairil Anwar made it into a literary language. It became a language not only of trade and science, but also of dreaming and daily life: the stuff of poetry. In the hands of its writers, Indonesian became a language of poetry and literature.

The African writer usually writes in a foreign language”, novelist  Boubacar Boris Diop of Senegal laments. “Not only does he offer the kind of books people cannot afford to buy, but most importantly, he writes on a continent where everyone speaks.”

Poetry bridges oral traditions and written text, raising up local languages to the same status as global languages.

In the hands of Timorese poets like Dadolin Murak, Tetun is increasingly becoming a language of written, not just spoken, poetry. More and more writers, who are fluent in Indonesian or English, prefer to write in Tetun – a language that can produce great literature just as much as more widespread languages can.

In this anthology, Dadolin Murak’s second (after Se mak Feto ba Ó? (Who is Women to you?) co-authored with Vitália Ze), we can see great literature emerge. It is grounded in the soil and stories of Timor-Leste, but also it speaks to global themes of human rights, the environment, children, love, silence, souls…

This anthology stands within what fellow Tetun-language poet Abé Barreto Soares calls “three-dimensional time,” showing keen awareness of the past and the future, while standing firmly rooted in the present.

Lilin Referendu (Referendum Candle) is published to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1999 referendum in which the Timorese people voted overwhelming, in vast numbers, to reclaim their independence. The candle of freedom was first lit in 1975. It burned on in secret places for 24 years until it was burned once again in 1999. It triumphed despite the “inferno” of violence that engulfed the beloved land of Timor-Leste – a memory that Dadolin Murak recalls in the title poem.

Strivers for freedom and justice tend that candle still, seeking a brighter future.

In evocative words, Lilin Referendu recalls the human rights disasters of the past, when bombs fell like rain on villages, dropped from Western-made aircraft (Knua Motuk). It celebrates the moment of restoration of independence by recalling Borja da Costa’s famous “Moment of Silence” poem (Tasi-Tolu, 20 May 2002). At the same time, it also laments the present’s inability to make amends to the martyred dead of the occupation years: “Apologies / We have failed to gather up your bones / We have failed to accompany your souls / Because our voice has been too muted…” (Deskulpa Rate-laek).

And it looks forward with hope-filled yearning, in a final section on children and the future. There is suffering here, and lamentation over the tragedies of the past and the failures of the present to do full justice, but there is also resolve looking forward. As the poet writes in the final words of this anthology: “…ha’u hakarak sai ha’u an rasik!”

Poets are not bound by rules and political compromises. They sing of old battles and ongoing struggles. They keep the candle burning.

Long may they write.


Prefásiu (lian tétun)

Poeta sira la’os uza dalen hodi hakerek de’it. Sira uza sira-nia dalen mak hodi harii dalen sira.

Bainhira lian Indonézia konstrói hela, iha tinan atus ida liubá, poeta sira hanesan Chairil Anwar konsege halo ida ne’e sai hanesan dalen literáriu. Ne’e sai dalen ida la’os de’it ba komérsiu no siénsia, maibé ba mehi no ba moris loron-loron nian: obra poétika nian. Iha ninia eskritór sira liman, dalen Indonézia sai dalen ida ba poezia no literatura.

Eskritór Afrikanu sira ne’e baiban hakerek iha lian estranjeiru”, romansista Boubacar Boris Diop husi Senegal lamenta. “La’os de’it tan nia oferese tipu livru sira ne’ebe ema susar atu sosa, maibé importante liu mak, nia hakerek iha kontinente ida ne’ebé ema hotu-hotu  ko’alia”.

Poezia nudar ponte ida bá tradisaun orál no testu hakerek, hodi hasa’e dalen lokal sira nia estatutu sai hanesan dalen global sira.

Liuhusi poeta timoroan sira hanesan Dadolin Murak, tétun hahú sai dalen eskrita ida ne’ebé makaas, la’os de’it poezia ne’ebé hodi ko’alia de’it. Iha tan eskritor barak liutan ne’ebé mak fluente iha dalen indonézia ka dalen inglés ne’ebé mak prefere atu hakerek ho dalen tétun – dalen ida ne’ebé bele produz literatura kmanek boot ida hanesan mos dalen sira seluk.

Iha antolojia ida-ne’e, mak Dadolin Murak nia obra ba daruak (hafoin Sé mak Feto ba Ó? (Who is a woman to you?) ko-autor ho Vitália Zé), ita bele haree literatura boot ida hahú mosu dadaun. Abut husi obra ida ne’e mai husi iha railaran no istória sira husi Timor-Leste, maibé mos ko’alia kona-ba tema global sira hanesan direitu umanu, ambiente, labarik sira, domin, silénsiu, klamar sira,…

Antolojia ida-ne’e hamriik iha buat ne’ebé maluk poeta Abé Barreto Soares hanaran «tempu dimensional-tolu», ne’ebé hatudu hela sensibilidade boot ba tempu pasadu no futuru, enkuantu hamriik hela ho abut metin mos iha prezente.

Lilin Referendu (Referendum Candle) publika atu marka aniversáriu da-20 referendu 1999 iha ne’ebé povu Timor-Leste tomak vota ho laran-taridu boot, iha númeru boot hodi reklama fila-fali sira-nia independénsia. Lilin liberdade ne’e ba dala-uluk halakan iha 1975. Lilin ne’e sunu lakan iha fatin naksubar sira durante tinan 24 nia laran no sunu lakan fali dala ida tan iha tinan 1999. Lilin ne’e lakan ho ksolok boot tebe-tebes maski ‘inferno’ violénsia tama dadaun rai doben Timor-Leste – memória ida ne’ebé Dadolin Murak fo hanoin hikas fali iha poema nia titulu.

Luta-nain sira ba liberdade no justisa sai nafatin tau matan hela ba lilin ida ne’e, hodi buka hela atu hetan futuru nabilan.

Iha liafuan evokativu, Lilin Referendum fo hanoin hikas kona-ba dezastre direitu umanu sira iha pasadu, bainhira bomba sira monu tuun mai hanesan udan monu-rai iha aldeia sira, be tiru tuun mai husi aviaun produtu-Osidental (Knua Motuk). Poema ne’e selebra momentu restaurasaun independénsia hodi fo hanoin hikas fali ita ba Borja da Costa ninia poema famozu «Nonook Minutu Ida» (Tasi Tolu, 20 Maiu 2002). Iha tempu hanesan, nia mos lamenta tempu prezente ninia inabilidade atu hatutan matebian mártires sira husi tempu okupasaun nian: «Desculpa/ Ami seidauk bele halibur imi ruin/ ami seidauk bele hamaluk imi klamar/ tan ami lian mamar liu…» (Deskulpa Rate-laek).

No obra ne’e mos buka atu hateke ba oin ho esperansa boot, iha seksaun final kona-ba labarik sira no futuru. Iha ne’e, iha terus, no halerik kona-ba trajédia sira iha pasadu no fallansu sira iha prezente atu hala’o justisa kompletu, maibé iha mos oinsá atu hateke ba oin. Nudar poeta ne’e hakerek ninia liafuan ikus iha antolojia ida ne’e: «…hau hakarak sai ha’u an rasik!»

Poeta sira la kesi metin ho regra no kompromisu politiku sira. Sira mak hananu batalla antigu no luta sira be sei la’o dadaun. Sira mak kontinua halo lilin ne’e lakan nafatin.

Husu boot sira bele hakerek nafatin.


David Webster

Bishop’s University

Quebec, Canada