Subject: Indonesian Artist Adopts Local Talents

EAST TIMOR: Indonesian Artist Adopts Local Talents

By Matt Crook

DILI, Apr 12 (IPS) - Yahiya Lambert wonít leave East Timor until heís set up the countryís first art academy. Heís been here for 28 years, so a few more wonít be a problem for the 37-year-old Indonesian, a native of the Maluku Islands.

"My life is first for the art and for my dream of the academy. Once I set up the academy then I will go back to Indonesia," he said.

On the second storey of a derelict building in Dili is Lambertís art studio, which is also his home. The floor isnít quite flat and for a long time it didnít have a roof, but itís the base of Sanggar Masin ("Salt Studio"), an art group that Lambert has big plans for.

Lambert set up an art school specialising in pottery in Manatutu district in 1996 called Sanggar Matan ("Ice Studio), which now operates out of a studio in Dili. He also has Sanggar Cultura ("Culture Studio") covering batik in Becora, Dili, and Sanggar Cusin ("Porcelain Pot Studio") focusing on oil painting in Oecussi district. Sanggar Masin is the heart of the Sanggars around the country.

"In all of East Timor I have 346 students. I have four Sanggars active here. I set up the Sanggars because with art you can move your character," he said.

Baltazar Alemeida Baptista, 22, is one of eight students living at the Sanggar Masin studio. He came to the art school in 2008 after being discovered in Same. "One of the Sanggar teachers said that I have a good talent and that I could come here to Dili to use it. I think [East] Timor needs artists because now there are not many. I have a good opportunity to paint here."

Lambert works on projects for non-governmental organisations with his students, he teaches photography and graphic design, and he tries to help his protťgťs sell their pieces, but he barely makes enough money to support himself because most of the Sanggar profits are sent to Indonesia where Lambert is putting a dozen East Timorese students through university.

"Now we have 12 students in Yogyakarta [Indonesia]. I sent the young Timorese from my group in Manatutu and some from another Sanggar to university to take arts degrees at the Indonesian Institute of Arts Yogyakarta. In June I want to send seven more," he said.

"People in East Timor can speak Indonesian and in Indonesia itís cheaper for the school. Iíd like to send them to Australia or another place, but I donít have the money. We donít have support from the government. The support comes from the students in here ≠ we work together," he added.

In a good six months, Lambert says he can earn 4,000 dollars from all his endeavours. In that same six-month period he is supposed to pay 500 dollars in tuition fees for each of the 12 overseas students and send them money for food and materials.

"I donít make enough money. I talked with the director of the university and for the six months, I donít pay all the money. I pay, say, 50 percent and then next month if I have money, I will send it. I have an agreement with the director. I told him, ĎIím from Indonesia, you must help me, Iíve set up the arts here in Timor.í I have the credit in Indonesia of about 8,700 dollars."

Lambertís vision is for an independent art academy in East Timor. With a date of 2014 in mind, he only sends his most talented and loyal students to study in Indonesia.

Theyíll each be there for five years until they get their degrees, at which point they have agreed to come back with their newfound skills and knowledge to help Lambert set up his academy.

Heís already been turned down by the government and is looking elsewhere for support.

"I tried in 1998 to go to the government and talk. They told me they had no plans to support my students with money. The government said no because their priority is not art. It didnít break my heart to hear this. You talk like this to me ≠ my heart is like stone, like iron. I want to realise my dream in [East] Timor," he said

"Now I think that if we made an art academy with the government, it would be difficult if people from another country want to come and work together because there would be many [bureaucratic] processes. I think art should be free and independent and then the other countries can come and work with us," he added.

Though the academy is still some way off, Lambert is putting together an event in Dili to showcase the artwork of the 12 students he has sent to study in Indonesia.

The exhibition could happen in May, although a venue has yet to be decided on and Lambert has to wait and see what kind of work his students can come up with and send back to East Timor.

Lambert also plans to set up a website in the near future so that he can better connect with people interested in supporting East Timorís art scene.


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