AVA 2021 Commendation

Ageing (Im)mobilities and Imagination: The story of Avó Marta caring for family across borders

AUTORS: Victoria Sakti and Alvaro Martinez

LINK: click here to see the project and listen to Avó Marta’s song

ABSTRACT: This project is a collaboration between two anthropologists interested in visualising ethnographic material. It illustrates an interview with Avó Marta, an East Timorese great-grandmother, and her family in Kupang, Indonesia. They arrived as refugees when massive violence broke out in Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) following the territory’s separation from Indonesia in 1999. The Indonesian 24-year occupation resulted in significant human loss and separated families that had stood or fought on opposing sides of the political conflict. Today, tens of thousands of East Timorese people live in former refugee camps and resettlements sites in Indonesia. Their everyday living conditions are marked by uncertainty, poverty and social exclusion. Many of those who chose not to return to Timor-Leste are growing older away from their homeland, and in exile.

This infographic tells the story of Avó Marta and how she perceived her later life in displacement. She spoke of longing for family members she had ‘left behind’ and, equally, those she cared for in the new settlement. The project depicts how she dealt with difficult circumstances through the forces of family, memories and imaginaries, and rituals of care for ancestors from afar.  

For more on this story and the topic of ageing in displacement, see this article.

BIO: Victoria Sakti is an anthropologist and postdoctoral research fellow at the Research Group ‘Ageing in a Time of Mobility’ based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany. She obtained her PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her research interests are at the intersections of ageing and forced migration in the global South; emotion, memory and violence; mental health and wellbeing, and translocal (im)mobilities. Victoria’s current research project examines experiences of ageing in displacement among older East Timorese people and in relation to kinship and social bonds in Indonesia and Timor-Leste, where she has conducted research since 2010. Her experience working with displaced communities and survivors of violence span beyond academia, working on these issues since 2004 with various non-governmental organisations and through her activism work in Indonesia and Germany.

Alvaro Martinez studied Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Catholic University of Bolivia and trained as a visual artist in various courses and artistic residencies. As an anthropologist he conducted research among the Aymara healers in the city of La Paz focused on the use of images and symbols as methods of diagnosis and healing of soul illnesses. His career as a visual artist ranges from the illustration of a graphic novel, character design, toy design, illustration of children’s and educational texts, animation, painting, photography, graphic design and video. His work has been published and exhibited at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, the International Book Fair of La Paz, the Maxim Gorky Theater in Berlin and the Urban Spree Gallery in Berlin among many others.  He is currently working on the combination of visual art and anthropological research.

AVA 2021 JUDGES: The Story of Avó Marta Caring for Family Across Borders, is a collaboration between two social and cultural anthropologists. The narrative is based on Victoria K. Sakti’s ethnographic fieldwork on ageing in displacement, conducted in Indonesia and Timor-Leste in 2019, and illustrated by Alvaro Martinez. A reviewer “found this piece straight forward and accessible, it provided a concise story and graphics, within a larger context, and touched on all the issues we considered. It also felt easier to evaluate it because everything is right in front of you.”

Jay Sokolovsky and Verónica Sousa, Judges (Multimodal Category)