‘We are a people of the gathering’

Christianto "Dicky" Senda

Christianto "Dicky" Senda

Co-founder, Lakoat.Kujawas

Based in Taiftob, Lakoat.Kujawas is a social enterprise that archives the cultural knowledge of Mollo Timorese through literacy, creative arts and culinary innovation.

“Middle school teachers complained to me that some of their students could hardly read. This surprised me— it was common in my 1990s childhood, but the fact that this was still the case in the mid-2010s bothered me. There are more kids now, but the quality of education and social progress here [in Taiftob] hadn’t improved.

Having worked in Kupang and Yogyakarta before, I collected books. I opened a library [in Taiftob] so that kids here can read. And I wrote a proposal telling people about my dream to build a gathering space for local children to engage in creative collaborations.

In July 2016, I was helping my father harvest loquats and guavas at the end of the season. The name Lakoat.Kujawas came to me in an instant. These fruits tug at my childhood memories. This name represents the hopes of a village child to live a better life at home, carrying the happy memories things like loquats and guavas make.

I intended Lakoat.Kujawas to cater to children. But in 2017, parents approached me. ‘Dicky, we want to join. What fun our kids are having with all these English classes, dance classes, and wonderful activities!’

I wasn’t prepared for an adult Lakoat.Kujawas, but came to understand why these parents wanted in. We, Orang Mollo, are a people of the gathering. We called our gatherings elaf. Elaf is about celebrations, coming together and fostering interpersonal relationships. It’s a moment where people meet and hear the spoken word, tales, and genealogies.

Harvest thanksgivings, and rituals held in wellsprings and rock towers make the space in which cultural knowledge is transmitted intergenerationally. When elaf is missing, the stories of our people lack the space to tell them.

I never imagined Lakoat.Kujawas becoming a travel experience. But as our work archiving our cultural knowledge came together like pieces of a puzzle, we came to realise that we have stories, values and philosophies that outsiders appreciate. 

At Lakoat.Kujawas we continue to grow and nurture the spirit of solidarity and collaboration, which are increasingly scarce. Our spirit is not project-based — it’s an elaf spirit that restores our cultural spaces with dignity."

Read more about Lakoat.Kujawas

  •  Grace Tan-Johannes 
  •  Andra Fembriarto 

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