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Blickwechsel: The Power of Music in Timor-Leste

Joviana at the Human Rights Festival Dili August 29, 2019 © Monika Schlicher

Joviana Guterres, Ego Lemos and Kiera Zen explain in this interview how national identity, fight for liberation, contemporary political concerns and uniquely Timorese ideals are communicated through traditional and new songs. Monika Schlicher and Maria Tschanz spoke with the musicians in September 2019 in Timor-Leste.

Ego Lemos: During the resistance, not many people were aware that music and culture are powerful and influential. We had a diplomatic resistance, we had a clandestine resistance, we had an armed resistance. But we forgot that cultural resistance plays a very important role to keep the culture of the East Timorese alive. The spirit of music evoked their spirit and their strength to fight for independence.

Kiera Zen: As you know, the fight against Indonesia was very hard. We had to find ways out, to resist, yet not only to resist but also to gain more influence; to convince not only more East Timorese, but also more Indonesians, more outsiders. In doing that, we had to try with as many ways as possible. Music also served this purpose. Even during the resistance in the bush, the freedom fighters were using music as a healing source and to strengthen the revolutionary spirit. And still, until now, it is acknowledged that music has contributed a lot to the movement.

Joviana Guterres: I firmly believe that the politically motivated music scene will go on, there are a great many young people who want to make music and form bands. Music, to my mind, will remain an instrument to advocate human rights and other political and social issues, like social justice, discrimination or gender equality.


Monika Schlicher is Director of the Stiftung Asienhaus and also in charge of the Focus Timor-Leste program. Since the end of the 1980s, the political scientist, historian and human rights activist has supported the people of Timor-Leste in a spirit of solidarity. She is engaged in public relations and lobbying in a lively exchange with East Timorese from the resistance, civil society organizations and politics.

Maria Tschanz worked with AGEH in the Civil Peace Service Programme in Timor-Leste from 2003-2007. She was employed by the women’s organization Fokupers for psychosocial counselling, coaching and organizational development. Since then she has been committed to the country and its people.

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Kategorien Timor-Leste | Transitional Justice | Publikationen | Blickwechsel | Stiftung Asienhaus | Menschenrechte | Frieden & Konflikt | Zivilgesellschaft | Englisch | Asienhaus

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