A Javanese Puppet and Guatemalan Worry Dolls

Engineering and IT Collection

A new display on Level 1 of Melbourne Connect features some surprising objects – among them a model of an ancestral house from Sulawesi, a Javanese puppet and a wreath of worry dolls from Guatemala.

These are all gifts presented by students undertaking courses in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology’s International Development Technologies Centre between 1980 and 2005.

In 1980 the Faculty of Engineering established a graduate program for engineers from developing countries, with a focus on development and sustainability.

The program was informed by a recognition that engineering and engineering education in developing countries was still often shaped by first-world assumptions. What was needed was ‘appropriate technology’, in which technologies worked in concord with their economic, social, cultural and climatic environments.

The program strongly influenced the University’s engagement with international students. The focus on appropriate technology and sustainable development enriched the teaching of engineering across the faculty.

A spirit of cultural exchange and pastoral care permeated the program, whose directors maintained close relationships with international students, alumni, aid agencies and government organisations. Students would often present a gift at the end of their course or when staff were visiting them back home.

Two of the gifts have a clear provenance. Totok Sulistiyanto presented a carved panel from West Papua in 1995; he is now an Indonesian expert on energy efficiency and Green Buildings, based in Jakarta. A carved door from Nepal was presented by Praphulla Shrestha in 2003; he has worked for aid agencies as a water, sanitation and health engineer and program manager in Nepal, Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Ethiopia and Myanmar.

The display can be seen adjacent to the Berkeley Room (1204) at Melbourne Connect.