Ai kebo sai osan dada Malay mai (Baucau)

In Baucau in the early twentieth century a son of one of the ruling houses of Bahu, Nai Leki (later to become Major Carlos da Costa Ximenes), was drafted into Portuguese administrative ranks. During his career he served in several administrative roles across the district, including the prestigious post of Administrator of the mountainous posto or sub-district of Quelicai in the 1930s. In 1934 it is recorded that he accompanied the Baucau Administrator Armando Pinto Correia on an official visit to Portugal (Correia 1935: 256; Belo 2011: 134). He died in 1948, a few years after much of Baucau town had been destroyed by World War Two aerial bombing. It was Nai Leki, along with other indigenous leaders of early twentieth century Baucau, who was said to have enticed the Portuguese in to establish a town by the ancestral spring of Wai Lewa. By the time of Nai Leki's death in 1948, Baucau was a 'Portuguese town' with stately buildings and promenades, an emergent culture of its own, and a lively economy driven largely by the activities of the resident Chinese traders who had set up shop around Wai Lewa.

In 1930 the district of Baucau is recorded to have had 76, 482 inhabitants of which 16 were from Portugal, 3 from other colonies, 21 from 'other localities', while 148 were 'foreigners' (Figueiredo 2004). 'Foreigners' refers to the Chinese residents, mostly from Macau, some of whom, according to their descendents, had arrived in the Baucau region in the nineteenth century. Correia (1944) records that there was in the town a class of women called 'nonnas' who were either of Chinese descent or somehow associated with the Portuguese administration. Other girls who would come in from outlying areas to be educated and would also be initiated into this 'town culture' which included highly coveted skills of Portuguese cookery, cake decorating and needlework. It was in this refined milieu that Nai Leki announced on his death bed that his people, from Bahu's Ro'ulu hamlet, should now adopt Portuguese ways and leave behind them the traditions of the past. 

At some point during these early twentieth century counter-rebellion campaigns, the malae mutin (Portuguese) in Baucau were so low in morale that they retreated back to Portugal to regroup. When they did so they took with them Nai Leki or Major Carlos da Costa. On their return to Baucau, these officials and Major Carlos visited the Portuguese outpost of Macau. In Macau, Major Carlos made a sacred agreement between himself as the ruler of Bahu and the Portuguese he had met in Macau. Introducing himself as a native of a place called Posto Wai Lewa (the sub-district of Wai Lewa), he explained to them that, 'At my spring I have a fruit tree (ai-tobal) whose fruit falls to the ground as silver and gold'. This tale was intended to entice these malae to visit the region and augment the Portuguese settlement of the town. The story worked and they too made the long journey from Macau to become a part of the permanent and by now significant malae population. 

The sacred agreement made during this visit to Macau had also been a way of cementing the relations between Nai Leki and his hosts. As in other intra-local contexts such oath-making was formalized through an exchange of names. Likewise in this instance, Posto Wai Lewa exchanged names with Macau and became Waukau. A Waima'a poem recording this exchange is called 'Kulu ana de ana Waukau' (A little breadfruit born to the land of Waukau):

Kulu ana de ana Waukau-Makau		The little breadfruit is born of Waukau-Makau
Kulu ana de ana Makau-Waukau		The little breadfruit is born of Makau-Wakau

The metaphor is one of a single breadfruit tree with grafted branches producing two separate lineages. The relation between Portuguese Macau and Waukau was now one of siblings and the Portuguese were said to have later changed the name of Waukau to Baucau . By the 1930s Major Carlos or Nai Leki had become the most important indigene in the Portuguese administration of the Baucau district and, as we saw above, in his role as Chefe de Posto in Quelicai he is credited with pacifying the district. Yet despite joining the ranks of the local Lusophone elite he was known to carry with him wherever he went a particular lulik (sacred) object: a torn piece of cloth which had belonged to the great magician Joao Lere (Correia 1935: 136).

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Label / Notes Owner Date Modified
Lisa Palmer 19-Nov-2010 21-Mar-2012