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Restoring the Spirit

Lisa Palmer

Watch Restoring the Spirit from Wai Mata Films on Vimeo.

In Timor-Leste spring water is central to people’s connections to each other and the ancestral spirit world. Underground flows are the carriers of spirits and the providers of life and well-being to the living. Restoring the Spirit follows Simião, a university student, who had been very ill and had almost died when something had attacked him and taken his spirit. With the water’s help, the family had recovered it, and his spirit had been restored to his body. Through ceremony the debt to the ancestral spirits of these healing waters is repaid and connections to more distant coastal springs are honoured.

Lisa Palmer teaches and researches on indigenous environmental knowledge and practices at the University of Melbourne. She has published widely and is the author of an ethnography on people’s complex relations with water in Timor-Leste titled Water Politics and Spiritual Ecology: Custom, Environmental Governance and Development (2015, Routledge, London). Her most recent book is Island Encounters: Timor-Leste from the Outside in (2021, ANU Press). Working also through visual methods she has directed two films, Wild Honey: Caring for Bees in a Divided Land (2019, Ronin Films) and Holding Tightly: Custom and Healing in Timor-Leste (2021, Ronin Films).

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