So, we finally got 4000 Tetum copies of the book to Dili (you might remember the first shipment sank in the Timor Sea) and that was our gift to the children of East Timor. Sorted, job done, time to clap ourselves on the back… But hold on – it’s one thing to have the books safely ensconced on dry Timorese land, but how are we going to actually get them to the kids?! It would cost a fortune to post them all over the country. But even if that was possible and practical, the book won’t have value unless it’s actually brought to the people.
Okay, phase 2 of The Boy and the Crocodile. How are we going to distribute the books all over East Timor? Enter Chris Parkinson, author and photographer behind a book we published a few years ago, Peace of Wall, which tells the story of East Timor through its street art.
Together (although the best bits were Chris’s ideas), we hatched a plan for a new project, called Myths & Murals. And we’re delighted to say that after nearly six months of planning and four major partnerships secured (with the University of Melbourne and the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade in Australia, and Arte Moris and the Alola Foundation in East Timor) we have lift off!
Over the next 16 months, we are embarking on the massive undertaking of distributing the books to each of the 13 far-flung districts of East Timor. Not only are we delivering books to every school, as well as libraries and community centres across the country, but we (ie. a team of artists from Arte Moris) will be regaling kids the length and breadth of East Timor with workshops on story-telling, creating art and the story of this book itself. And in the main town of each district, we are going to engage with older youth and create large-scale collaborative murals depicting scenes from their creation myth, The Boy and the Crocodile’. These will be on the exterior walls of libraries and other public buildings and will symbolically unite the country in a common sense of national identity.
Aid literacy (tick), promote harmony (tick), celebrate story (tick) and help forge a national identity (tick). We couldn’t be happier, and thanks to the hundreds of people who pre-purchased the book and made the Tetum version possible. Chris is in East Timor this week, rolling out the project. Stay tuned to see the fruits of your efforts.
*Remember – kids in East Timor have precious few books in Tetum, their de facto lingua franca. And half the adult population is illiterate. The country’s greatest challenge is uniting the people behind one flag. The creation myth of The Boy and the Crocodile and the language of Tetum are two of the few things they do have in common.
Martin Hughes, Affirm Press