A couple of weekends back, I went to the 9th anniversary celebrations at Arte Moris (official website here). A Dili gem, this free art school inhabits the grounds of a ramshackle old museum complex (which used to be the provincial museum of Timor Timur, when Timor-Leste was occupied and a province of Indonesia).
Unfortunately there was really big rain on the anniversary day, which made it hard to stay outside for long and listen to the bands playing, but it was still possible to wander the galleries and check out the art (even though the roof was also leaking inside). There was a lot of good stuff there – Arte Moris has clearly been the driving force in both continuing and fostering Timorese contemporary art since Independence.
It seemed a fair chunk of Dili had turned out for the event (especially the expats) and kids were spray painting, getting their faces decorated and filling in big canvases. The atmosphere was great, despite the rain, and the grounds of Arte Moris were like a whimsical playground to explore with art and sculpture all around the place.
The original goal of Arte Moris was to ‘use art as a building block in the psychological and social reconstruction of a country devastated by violence, with special emphasis on helping its young citizens’.
You know when you go to a community space and you can feel its value? In Timor, where community creative spaces are rare, this place really stands out as a unique asset.
But like most community art spaces almost anywhere in the world, it is clearly run on the smell of an oily rag. The ceiling in the main dome building is badly damaged.