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Christmas Eve in Suai Theme: Patriotic Duty

Artist: Wendy SHARPE

Title: Christmas Eve in Suai

Credit Line: Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Ave Maria Suai is the Catholic Church on top of the hill overlooking the East Timorese town of Suai. On the day after the referendum of 4 September 1999 it was the site of a horrific massacre. Christmas Eve in Suai captures Wendy Sharpe’s observation of midnight mass and the re-enactment of the massacre, which took place less than three months earlier.

She was deeply moved by the performance and interpreted the event as an attempt by the local people to exorcise their pain. The eye is drawn to the colour and movement on the stage as well as the dark figures of the crowd as they become animated and distorted by the light from the performance. The Cathedral is luminous and creates a menacing presence in the background.

Christmas Eve in Suai is an image that illustrates Sharpe’s empathy for the people of a war torn nation, while maintaining a sense of hope for the future.

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