Lunch & Learn: The Ancestors of Ataúro
Talk / Lecture
12:00 to 12:30
Mon, August 24, 2020

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Lunch & Learn: The Fowler’s Lunch & Learn series offers easily digestible curatorial explorations of charismatic objects from around the world in our permanent collection. Join us to chew on some sustenance and feed your mind during your lunch break.


This pair of Ancestor figures—created by an unknown sculptor on Ataúro Island, Timor-Leste in the early to mid-20th century and known in the Tetum language as itara—was intended to honor family members who had passed away. Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asia and Pacific Arts at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, will explain the significance of these sculptures, aspects of their production, and their ritual uses. She will also present an original short video showing Atauroan master sculptor Antonio Soares creating a pair of itara.

Joanna Barrkman’s research interests relate to the island of Timor—both West Timor, Indonesia, and the independent nation of Timor-Leste. She has curated the exhibition Sculptures of Atauro Island at Charles Darwin University Art Gallery (2017) and authored the accompanying publication (republished tri-lingually in 2019). She also co-curated Textiles of Timor: Island in the Woven Sea at the Fowler Museum (2014) and co-edited the eponymous publication with Roy W. Hamilton. In addition, Barrkman curated Husi Bei Ala Timor Sira Nia Liman: From the Hands of Our Ancestors, a major exhibition about the arts of Timor-Leste presented by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, which featured the National Collection of Timor-Leste (2009). Recently, with support from UNESCO, Barrkman developed a website about the Baguia Collection, held at the Museum der Kulturen, Basel, Switzerland, based on her doctoral studies at the Australian National University, Canberra. Her current exhibition, Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End, will be presented at the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2021 and will be accompanied by an eponymous publication.