6 April 2014
Last Sunday afternoon, after lunch, we popped into Timor Plaza as I needed to get some more cash to fill up the car with petrol.
Timor Plaza is Dili’s one and only shopping mall. It is usually pretty busy with the food court offering a good cheapish place to eat and a selection of shops selling phones, furniture, toys, household goods and clothes. There is a supermarket in the basement and usually a bit of a market in the centre of the mall. Its offering varies from day to day, sometimes it’s selling plastic household goods, other times it’s children’s bikes or barbecues and one time it was camping equipment. But that day was different. The place was completely packed out and it was hard to move through the crowds. We pushed our way through to the stairs down to the ground floor and found that there was a big sign “The Little Girl’s Fashion Competition”. We had to stop and watch.
The little girls were all dressed up beautifully with their hair done, sporting a tiara or a feather or other ornament in their hair and of course in their best frocks. There was a particularly fetching green one, with a full length skirt that swished as the little girl walked down the runway. And the ultimate winner sported a lavender job edged in purple. Each little girl wore a sash with her name on it – Daniela, Sebastiane, Graziela and one whose name appeared to be Custody. Or maybe I just couldn’t read the last part of her name. The girls ranged in age from about 5 to 12 or 13. They lined up on the stage then one by one paraded down the catwalk to the accompanying commentary from the compere. At the end of the catwalk, the girls said a little speech to the judges and the crowd clapped and cheered. Fashion TV, eat your heart out!
There were three judges, one of whom had a particularly fascinating hair style with a bun on top, with the sides of his head virtually shaven. After the initial parade, the judges retired to consider their verdict. During the interval, we went and sat in the cafe overlooking the catwalk (so that we could watch all the little girls milling around in the centre) and had a nice afternoon tea. Meantime, the mothers fiddled with their daughters’ make up or pulled out the petticoats so that the skirts stuck out further. And of course, they took endless photos. The girls practised posing, hands on hips and swayed or waddled their way down the catwalk again. They ended up doing a congar, clinging onto each other’s voluminous skirts and trying not to trip over their own.
At last the judges came back and the awards began. First, each girl received a bunch of white flowers and a big certificate. Then the
judges called out the names of the winners – we couldn’t understand a word as it was all in Tetum, but it was easy to get the gist. Out of the 20 or so girls taking part, there were 8 winners. As a name was called (for what category, we couldn’t guess), the prize winner came forward and the families cheered. The judges gave each winner a trophy and a kiss and then with a big smile, she had her photo taken with the Timor Plaza sponsor. She then walked, laden down and trying not to drop anything, to the end of the catwalk to take her place in the line of winners. The music played ever more loudly, the compere’s voice rose above it, the crowd cheered and waved, the winners smiled and laughed, the cameras flashed and the little girls who didn’t win cried at the back.