Ros Dunlop

Capturing the soul of East Timorese culture

A chance encounter with the US Ambassador to East Timor led to music PhD student, Ros Dunlop, publishing her book Sounds of the Soul, a bilingual book on the traditional music of East Timor.

The book placed second in the Faculty of Education and Arts Research Higher Degree publication prize and also won a gold medal in the Independent Publishing Awards in New York and was just announced as the winner of the music category in the Australian Government’s Inaugural Australian Arts In Asia Awards. Ros has been to East Timor over 40 times in the past decade, first as an activist then, as she got to learn more about the people of East Timor she found that their culture had almost vanished. She’s now writing her thesis titled The traditional music of East Timor and how it is placed in social and cultural mores of East Timorese society.

“The Timorese are a complex people, their culture suffered due to occupation over many centuries and was almost completely wiped out during Indonesian occupation, now they’re independent they’re starting to rebuild this endangered culture,” Ros said.

Ros made many recordings of traditional East Timorese music and created a DVD that the US Ambassador to East Timor discovered in a shop.

“He asked me what I was going to do with all this information I had gathered and suggested that I apply for a grant from the US Ambassador’s Fund. With these funds I was able to produce the book, a CD and DVD and an additional 1000 copies which I distributed to schools and libraries in East Timor, in January 2013,” Ros said.

“Because a large percentage of East Timorese are illiterate, I designed the book to be visually rich and appealing so that even non-readers can learn about aspects of their culture. It’s also bilingual – written in English and in Tetun, one of the national languages of East Timor and the traditional language of the East Timorese.”

“It’s the result of ten years of work and I’m really glad it’s making a difference to the people of East Timor, they really seem to be engaging with it,” Ros said.

“The teachers College in Baucau has already started to use the book as a resource to help create teaching programs in music for teachers.”

Image: Ros Dunlop with cultural custodian Salvatore da Costa Pereira

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