Young Timor-Leste Artists Fashion New Futures From Ceramics With USAID Help

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
USAID’s Tourism For All Program provided training to help these four young Timor-Leste artists fashion new futures from their work with ceramics.
Elvis Guterres for USAID

Dili, Timor-Leste -- Timor-Leste youth face an uncertain future in the post-conflict country where more than half the population is under 30 and the unemployment rate for young people is nearly 10.5 percent, but four young Timorese artists are seeing a brighter horizon with help from USAID’s Tourism For All Project.

Jose Pereira, Aderito De Jesus, Zacarias Freitas and Domingos Ramos Salsinha – all in their early twenties - have seen their lives transformed after a ceramics production training course at the East Timor Development Agency (ETDA), funded by USAID. They were selected for their artistic talent to receive technical training from a master potter, combined with the business skills they need to sell their pottery.

Timor-Leste has always had a tradition of making pottery for domestic use. The ETDA project has taken the craft to a new level, with a more robust, glazed product, featuring highly decorative cultural motifs, designed to appeal to the tourist market.

The Government of Timor-Leste has identified tourism as a key path to diversifying the oil-dependent economy. Enabling the youth population to develop productive skills will not only help with that goal but also helps move the country farther along its journey to self-reliance.

USAID Mission Director Jim Wright praised this initiative, saying “Timor-Leste is blessed with a large and vibrant youth population eager to channel their energy towards building a better future for themselves and their country.  Unfortunately, many of them are unable to find jobs.  I am very pleased that the partnership between USAID’s Tourism for All project and ETDA has allowed these youth to use their talent to both earn a living and make the country more attractive to tourists.”

Salsinha was unemployed and at risk of taking the wrong path in life. He said the course gave him a new direction.

“I never thought I would be able to be so creative or able to learn new skills,” he said. “I am so proud to be a Timorese youth and because I make this local pottery, I know I am promoting my country for others around the world and especially promoting Timor-Leste tourism that I believe will make everyone happy.”

The new pottery is on sale from a new store front at ETDA and that’s putting money in the pockets of the four young artists. The workshop has received orders from the government for commissioned pieces to offer as commemorative gifts for visiting dignitaries and to mark milestones in the country’s history. Pottery also is being shipped to Melbourne, Australia, providing an international market.

The artists are appreciative of the opportunities provided by USAID and ETDA through the training, the workshop, and the sales outlet and now they’re passing on their newly improved skills to other students.

“I love painting because through painting I am promoting my country. In this way I believe my contribution as a Timorese will contribute to the development of tourism in Timor-Leste,” said De Jesus, who had dropped out of school but is now a trainer and is learning English.

ETDA Senior Manager Januario Mok noted the development of the four young artists.

“All four of our trainees show a marked change in outlook, which suggests an impact on their lives through self-confidence, pride in skills and earning power,” he said.

Perhaps Freitas summed the shared goals of USAID and the artists the best: “I have a dream to make many different styles of pottery in the future and to promote my country to people around the world.”

Last updated: July 13, 2020

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