Strutting his stuff

Alfredo appears to be playing tricks with his appearance. In Maubisse, a year ago, he was sporting the Marine look, the “high and tight” cut. Then the third-world insurgent-hero goatee. Recently a Fretilin blogger accused him of immitating a Moluccan nationalist with an old-fashioned mustache. The Australian reporters who met him after two days walk in the middle of the night revealed today he is back to the goatee. He seems to put a lot into appearances. I guess he knows they are quite important. In Timor, speed and strength cannot always win the fight.

Quoting from orgs. Cristiano da Costa, Aureo da Costa Guterres, Justino Lopes (2006) Exploring Makassae Culture. Instituto Católico para Formação de Professores Baucau, Baucau:

Cock fighting is a gambling event of the ‘real world’ but the process for thegame to take place is associated with the ‘world of the imagination.’ It always involves supersticious practices and belief in the cock feathers, not the skill and the strength of the cocks. The gamblers at the cock-fighting events believe that the asa-namu ‘the feathers’ give strength to the cock to determine the fate of the game.

There are number of feathers commonly known such as buree, dala, bakasa, kalabu imiri, butiri. Accordingly each of the main feathers is sub-divided again in more than 20 of sub-feathers such as: Tafui, Teki, Teki miat, Teki luru mia, Teki fa’uk, Fa’u, Fa’u kaidawa, Temo, Dala Lairisa, Dala Filas, Sabu, Seri, Seri gaba (seri yellow), seri metan (seri black), Meluk, Sabu meluk, Sabu lurumia, and so on.

Before the ‘meeting of the minds’ between the two parties to fight their cocks, skilled cock-fighters will examine the colours of the feathers, the eyes, claw, beaks and as well as the length of time for the fight must be right for both side, before betting starts. If the two contending parties agree on all of these things, then the cock-gamblers on both sides begin to place tara which is a sharp blade, like small knife known as tara, in one foot of each of the two cocks. After the blades are attached the watchers and bettors must leave the circular fighting-ground and only two people, acting as ‘referees’ and managers of the fight, are allowed inside. Many people attend these fights that are held regularly in towns and villages throughout the Makassae region.

The different types of cock feathers and the skilled cock-fighting gamblers who read, understand and foresee the cocks’ fate are at the core of the cock fighting tradition. Those that read feathers are able to distinguish and name the different cocks may also be able to correctly match a cock against its opponent and name the best time for the fight. For example tafui is the kind of cock with red feathers, and feet and beak that are are black or white, similar to wild cocks. This type of cock can only be matched against its opponent between five o’clock or between 4-4:30 in the afternoon. This is supposedly the best time because this would be the time when wild cocks are searching for food in the forest, as well as courting the hens… Below is a descriptive list of some cocks with their respective opponents and the time that one particular type could best defeat its opponent.

Buree There are various types of Buree but the ‘buree imiri’ (red buree) can fight with the fauk and dala only. The Buree cocks also have two colours so they are [also] called ‘buree metan’ which means black buree.

Fauk The fauk cock can challenge the dala. The fauk cock is all red.

Meata The meata cocks are best suited to fight at six o’clock in the afternoon against nase or fauk cocks

Sasabu The sasabu can defeat temo and buree metan cocks at any time during the fights

Teki The teki can oppose either meata or, dala or fauk

Dala The Dala can win if he faces temo and funak in any battle at any time

Bakasa The Bakasa is pure white in colour. It can be a winner at midday against any contender

Exploring Makassae Culture is a collaborative ethnography produced by the Marist Teachers College in Baucau. The book costs $10, and is available from the library of the Teachers College, above the market in the old town in Baucau.

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