Manatuto Ceramics Factory Project

Once the leaders and members of the East Timor resistance, the East Timor Women’s Resistance Movement (O.M.T.) is fighting a new war. Having fought against the Indonesian Army (T.N.I.) for twenty five years they now have to rebuild a country systematically stripped of it’s infrastructure. Amongst the eighty five percent of Timor’s buildings which were destroyed, are the Ailili Ceramics Workshop and the Manatuto Ceramics Factory. Once a thriving industry, all that remains today is a memory. Or that would be the case if the O.M.T. hadn’t become involved in recreating it from the ground up - literally.

The T.N.I. took everything of any value that they could carry.  This included the doors, windows, fixtures and fittings.  They also took the lives of the people who used to run the factory – those who knew how to make fine ceramics. Now, through the network formed when they were running the résistance, the O.M.T. have provided the motivation, funding and market to enable the restoration of the factory

Clay dug a few km from the factory is processed and prepared in tanks.  It is then crafted by the workers and baked in primitive kilns.  The ceramics produced are beautiful and unique, echoing African tribal ware.  They are not commercially viable in a market competing with cheap imports from the rest of Asia.  They want to produce a better product and raise their standard of living.

The task facing the villagers involves leveraging their existing skills and the remaining infrastructure.  The first priority is to move from the buffalo-dung kilns back to the kiln they used to use.  Everything has been stripped from here – including the essential fire-brick lining and shelves.  And the front is missing a door.  With this kiln back in operation, the factory can restart production of glazed ceramics.  They can start to re-learn the skills lost through the devastation of war.