Timor-Leste, Oecusse: Stories from our grandparents (Istória husi Bei ala sira)

Image from www.timorleste.tl

(Favor hare ninia tradusaun iha tetun iha kraik )

Oecusse is a special part of Timor-Leste – it is an enclave within Indonesian West Timor. Raimundo and Jacinto are from different villages in Oecusse.

The history is from the ancient times until now: from my grandmother and all my family – we all know about it well. Different villages believe different things: Raimundo’s village believes in Koko (who sort of looks like a chicken, but isn’t a chicken), Jacinto’s village believes in the monkey, some believe in the birds. Koko or monkey, the beliefs are the same.

Jacinto’s uncle, Am Bobo Sila (Elo Bubun) (left) and father, Lorenso Sufa (Oki nima) (right). Am Bobo Sila communicates with people who have died.

Traditional house

Each village has a traditional house; each sacred house is named after a family and has different stories. Raimundo’s traditional house is called ‘elo mano’ (this is Raimundo’s family name). The ‘oquinima’ traditional house is from Jacinto’s village. ‘Oqui’ is a family name. ‘Nima’ is the number five – five is significant as the monkey has five fingers and so do we. We are born from the monkey.

We find a tree with three branches in the jungle, called hau-mone – we cut it and put it in front of the traditional house with five steps leading up to it (five is a significant number). Between the three branches we put a stone inside. After we put the stone in the tree, we take the stone out of the tree and put it in a small basket with traditional money. Traditional money is in the form of silver disks, often worn on a red cord around the neck. The person who goes up the five steps to place the stone in the tree, then places it in a basket with traditional money, will be able to hear the information from our God. This happens in other districts as well.

The sacred tree and rock outside Jacinto’s traditional house.


Koko translates to ‘sacred bird’ in Oecusse language. He lives in a cave, and comes out at night. When he shouts in the middle of the night it means someone is going to die. When we hear Koko shout we move away from him: we are supposed to be far from him. When Koko gives a bad sign in the night that someone will die or get sick we don’t know who.

Koko can be positive to us; he can give us power and protect us. Koko can make us richer if we respect him and don’t do anything negative to him. This is a gift from the Koko. When we go to fight we are supposed to ask the Koko to give us power and protect us – so if someone throws a stone at us, the stone won’t hit us. This is from before the Portuguese came, and we used this during Portuguese times until now. If we do something wrong to him, Koko can give us a sickness, and we can even die.

Koko has a special place in a cave inside a big stone. To give our respect to Koko, we will leave him gifts outside his cave in the middle of the night: a cigarette or betel nut, or bamboo.   We say a special prayer, to ask Koko what animal he would like us to kill for him. Every few months Koko asks us to feed him a pig, goat, chicken, or maybe a buffalo. We kill the animal and then call Koko’s name with a traditional prayer. We give him the feathers and then kill the animals to give Koko the blood, a little rice, and meat of the animals.

Am Bobo Sila (Elo Bubun) looks at the entrails to see if there will be sickness in the village, and if they need to sacrifice another animal

If we do something negative to Koko, he will give us sickness. Pigs come in three colours: black, yellow or white. Koko will ask for a particular colour pig, and we will go and find the right pig for him. If the Koko asks for a yellow pig, and we can only find a white pig, Koko can give us a sickness because we haven’t done what he has asked us to do, because we gave the wrong colour pig. It is important to give Koko exactly what he asks for, otherwise the sickness can continue.

If the Koko gives us sickness and we die, it is because we have done something wrong, and not given him a cigarette or betel nut.

We can stand next to the monkey, but we can’t stand next to Koko. We can stand next to his shadow. We can stand next to the monkey and his shadow but we cannot catch the monkey, or take a stone and throw it.

Jacinto’s mother Filomena Ola (left) and aunts preparing food for the family


Sometimes when we plant a garden, we kill an animal at the traditional house with the seeds so that the seeds grow when we plant them. We will kill an animal at the traditional house to call rain for the plants. This helps to bring the rain at the right time for the plants to grow. If the rains don’t come in December to break the dry season, we kill a chicken, pig, or goat up in the mountain to ask for the rains to come for the plants to grow. Then we kill a chicken in the garden to stop pests from eating the plants. We grow corn, rice, potato, peanuts, cucumber, and beans.

When I return to Timor-Leste, Jacinto’s family has invited me to Oe-cusse to sit together and talk to his grandmother about her history and stories special to Oki nima, from the first until the last.

Jacinto Punef (Justin Okey) who shared his history from Lilis, Nonquican, Oe-cusse. Jacinto is a volunteer at UNDP Knua Juventude Fila-Liman, and we talked about the history from his family and district.

Istória tuir lian Tetum

Istória ne’ebe mai husi haʼu-nia avó-feto no haʼu-nia família sira desde tempu uluk kedan sei konta tuir toʼo agora, ita hotu mos hatene kona ba Istória ne’e, iha tempu ne’eba husi Aldeia oin-oin fiar ba buat ne ‘ ebé mak la hanesan: iha Raimundo sira-nia suku sira fiar iha Koko (koko mak buat ida ita hare’e atu hanesan manu ida, maibé laos manu ), iha  Jacinto sira-nia suku fali sira fiar iha Lekirauk , no balu fiar iha manu fuik, Koko ou lekirauk, mesmu husi animál ne’ebe diferente maibe Istória ida ne’e ho nia konseptu hanesan.

Uma lisan

Kada suku mai ho ninia uma lisan ou uma lulik ; uma lisan ida-idak ema hanaran hafoin ema iha uma lisan ne’e rasik forma família ida no mosu ho nia istória ba naran uma lisan nia ne ‘ ebé mak diferente. Hanesan Raimundo nian uma lisan hanaran ‘elo mano’ (ida-ne’e mak naran família Raimundo nian). ‘Oquinima’ katak uma lisan ne’ebe mai husi Jacinto nian suku. ‘Oqui’ mak família nia naran. ‘Nima’ ne ‘ebé mak númeru lima-lima mak signifikante hanesan lekirauk nia liman fuan lima,tan ne’e Istória haktuir katak sira mai husi lekirauk.

Ita hetan ai-hun ida ho ninia sanak tolu iha ai laran, ne ‘ebé hanaran hau-mone – ita tesi ida-neʼe no tau nia iha uma lisan nia oin ho eskada lima hodi bele lao sa’e ba iha ai ne’e nia leten (lima ne’e ne’e katak ho nia signifikante númeru ). Entre sanak tolu ne nia le’et ita tau fatuk ida iha nia laran.Depois ita tau tia fatuk iha ai ne’e nia le’et , ita hasai fali fatuk husi ai ne’e no tau nia iha luhu ki’ik ida ho osan lulik iha laran. Osan lulik ne’e rasik iha forma hanesan kabelak ga belak osan-mutin, ne ‘ ebé dala barak to’o agora ema uja ho talin mean tara ba kakorok. lia nain sei hasa’e fatuk ne’e liu husi eskada lima hodi hatur fatuk iha ai ne’e nia leten, depois tia mak ba hatur hikas fali fatuk ne’e iha luhu nia laran ho osan lulik atu nune’e bele hetan resoponde husi ita nia Maromak. Ida ne’e akontense iha distritu sira seluk mos.

Jacinto’s younger brother Francisco Okey (right), and father sacrificing a pig to give to people who have died. The sacrifice is to ask their ancestors to help people get jobs.


iha lian Oecusse Koko siknifka ‘atu koko buat ruma’. koko hela iha fatuk-kuak ida, no nia sai iha tempu kalan deit. Kuandu nia hakilar iha tempu kalan, neʼe siknifica katak ema ruma sei mate. Bainhira ita rona Koko hakilar ita sei hado’ok a’an husi nia: ita tenke mos lao ses dok husi nia. Bainhira Koko fó sinál perigu iha kalan katak ema sei mate ka sai hetan moras, ita mos dalaruma hatene sé los mak sei hetan moras ou mate iha tempu ne’e.

Koko mos bele sai pozitivu ba ita; nia bele fó kbiit ba ita no proteje ita. Koko bele halo ita sei sai ema riku se quandu ita respeitu nia no la halo arbiru ba nia .

Koko mos bele sai pozitivu ga hanoin diak ba ita; nia bele fó kbiit ba ita no proteje ita. Koko bele halo ita sei sai ema riku se ita respeitu nia no la halo arbiru ba nia. prezente ida husi Koko mak hanesan ; bainhira ita atu ba halo funu ka baku malu ita sei husu koko atu fó ita kbiit no proteje ita – tan neʼe se ema ruma tuda fatuk ba ita , fatuk ne’e mos sei la kona ita. biru ida ne’e mosu iha kedan molok portugues mai, no ita mos uja biru ida-ne’e durante Portugés nia tempu to’o agora.se kuandu mak ita halo buat ruma sala ba Koko, nia bele halo ita moras no mos ita bele mate.

Koko hela iha fatin ida ne ‘ ebé espesiál iha fatuk-kuak boot ida nia laran. Atu hatudu respeitu ba Koko, ita sei lori prezente ruma ba nia iha nia fatuk-kuak oin iha kalan bot hanesan: sigarru, bua ka aau/Bambu. Ita sei hamulak mos ba nia no hodi husu Koko ba animál saida mak nia hakarak ita atu agradese ga oho ba nia. Iha Kada fulan balu Koko husu mai ita atu fó-han nia fahi ida, bibi, manu, dalaruma karau. depois Ita sei oho animál ne’ebe nia husu. tradisionalmete sei hamulak hodi temi Koko nian naran ho orasaun no ita sei   fó nia manu fulun depois oho animál no fo animál nia ra’an ba Koko,fo mos ho foos oituan ho animál sira nia na’an.

Se ita halo buat ruma arbiru ba Koko, nia sei halo ita moras. Koko sei husu ita ba fahi ho kór tolu hanesan; kor metan, kinur ka mutin. Koko sei husu deit ba fahi kór partikular ida, no ita sei ba buka tuir kor ida ne’ebe mak nia hakarak. Se Koko husu ba fahi ida ho kor kinur, no ita lori fali de’it mak fahi kor mutin ida, Koko bele halo ita moras tanba ita la halo tuir saida mak nia hakarak, tamba ita fo sala fahi nia kor, ida ne’e importante atu fó lolos saida mak Koko hakarak, selae moras ne’e bele kontinua.

Se Koko halo ita moras no ita mos sei mate, ida ne’e tanba ita halo buat ruma ne‟ebé la los, ne’e tamba la fó nia sigarru ka bua malus ba nia .

Ita bele hamriik iha lekirauk nian sorin , maibé ita la bele hamriik iha Koko nia sorin. Ita bele hamriik iha nia lalatak nia sorin. Ita bele hamriik iha lekirauk nia lalatak nia sorin , maibé ita la bele kaer toman lekirauk, ka foti fatuk ruma atu tuda nia.

Halo To’os

dala Ruma ita halo to’os no kuda fini , ita mos halo seremonia oho animál ida iha uma lulik / uma tradisionál no hase’e fini ba uma lulik para fini ne’ebe ita kuda sei moris ho buras. Ho objetivu oho animál iha uma lulik refere atu bele bolu udan hodi tau rai no fo matak ba aihan ne’ebe atu kuda.

Seremonia ida ne’e mos atu bolu udan mai ho nia tempu hodi fini   bele moris

Se karik iha fulan-Dezembru tempu udan mak udan la mai, ita sei ‘kero’ ga halo tuir fali iha tempu bailoron para hodi udan bele mai, ita sei halo tuir ‘kero’ hodi oho manu, fahi ka bibi iha foho lolon hodi adora ba udan bele tun rai ba aihoris hodi moris. Depois ita mos sei oho manu ida iha to’os laran hodi hapara peste atu labele han ita nia aihan Fini sira ne’ebe mak ita kuda hanesan ; batar, hare, fehuk ropa , fore rai, pipiu no fore sira seluk .

bainhira hau fila mai Timor Leste, familiia husi Jacinto sei konvida hau atu ba Oe-cusse atu hodi hamutuk no kolia ba nia bis avo historia no special liu ba familia oki nima nian, husi inisiu to’o agora

Translated by Meta Barreto