Danilo Lemos Afonso-Henriques shares his home, heritage and a wonderful artwork collection.

Danilo Lemos Afonso-Henriques lived in Beijing from 2011 to 2013 whilst he was the Economic Attaché at the Embassy of Timor-Leste.  Then in 2014 he was offered the post of Timor-Leste Delegate at the Forum for Commercial and Economic Cooperation between China and Portuguese Speaking Countries (Macau).  “I loved my time in Beijing and was initially reluctant to leave but I was excited to take up the new opportunity.  The Forum supports the efforts of linking China with the Portuguese speaking countries and especially for the smaller countries, such as Timor-Leste, Macau makes a fantastic business platform.”

Pre-Covid, Danilo and his team would lead 12-15 trips to China a year.  It was great exposure for Timor, the marketing, the investment benefits were there.  “I’ve also taken groups from China and Macau to Timor.  Usually groups of about 30 … such as those from the Association of Aromatic and Therapeutic Oils, other Associations such as Scuba Divers and Photographic Associations have also expressed interest.  This outreach helps bridge the gap between the countries and there have been a number of success stories.  The coffee I drink is from Timor and is readily available here and in China, as are the essential oils I burn in my apartment.” 

Besides, Danilo has family connections in Macau.  Both his great grandfather and grandfather both served in the Portuguese administration in Macau, the latter being born here.  “My mother’s father was in the Portuguese army when it was based here.  They fought off the pirates from along the Coloane coastline.  Hence there’s a little street with my family name: Correa de Lemos behind the St. Francis Xavier Church in Coloane. My great grandfather married a Macau lady.  They had 13 children.  One stayed in Macau, the other 12, including my grandfather, went to Timor, which is where I was born and grew up.”

On arrival “I came straight to this apartment in Hoi Fu – it’s the assigned Residence of the Timor-Lest Consulate, most of the delegates live here.”  Hoi Fu is on Rotunda de S. João Bosco, a 4-tower development on the outskirts of down-town Macau, built on the northern side of Guia Hill.  A mid floor K unit 1600 square feet, it has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  And no less than 3 balconies!   His view one way is toward the Macau reservoir and beyond to the bridge to Hong Kong and the other over Guia Hill, and in the distance, Grand Lisboa and the Macau Tower.

The apartment came only sparsely furnished, so Danilo was cleverly able to pick up nearly all the furniture from on line; “ByeBye Zaia was great, a Russian pilot leaving Macau and vacating his home in One Central gave me all the wardrobes and the wonderful bamboo-wood veneered extendable dining table (originally from IKEA).  The dining chairs come from Tao Bao, sofas also from IKEA and arched floor lamp from ByeBye Zaia. The caramel-white floor tiles throughout give a neutral palate from which the moss-green sofas pop.  The ceiling light in the living room is a gold ‘disco’ ball; “I have always wanted an operating mirror ball in my home, I finally have one!” he laughs.

Other homes in Macau that Danilo’s visited – “I went to One Oasis for the first time the other day, a friend had just moved in.  Amazing facilities, it just seems so far out of the way.  Ocean Gardens, I like the apartments there. But living here I love, with a great supermarket, Alves Café and Sushi Mitei Japanese restaurant downstairs.  Also Riquexo and APOMAC (Association of Pensioners and Retirees of Macau) restaurants are just a few yards down the road both of which serve excellent, traditional Macanese food.”

“Gaia Hill is nearby for exercise.  I can walk into the center.  I’ve grown accustomed to living in Hoi Foi, I like the sociability.  Residents are a mix of local, Portuguese and foreigners.  I have some lovely neighbours opposite and we host dinner parties for each other.  It’s a little enclave in Macau, with a bit more social interaction with local people which you don’t always get.”

When first entering Danilo’s home one is immediately impressed by 3 very large photograph prints hanging in the hallway and living room, of Timor-Leste, by Bangkok-based photographer Cedric Arnold.  “The three images feature: two elderly women walking on a dirt road in Bobonaro, the birthplace of my father. In the other, two young boys playing in Dili on concrete breakwater blocks in front of a passing container ship and the iconic landmark statute of Cristo Rei (Christ the King) in the far background.  And the third, a photo of a man in the coffee-growing region of Atsabe carrying a bag of coffee on his back.  “These pictures are a daily physical and visual reminder of the reason I wake up every day and go to work, whose lives in my country I am striving to improve through the work and representation that the state has conferred and honoured upon me.”

“Things are just things, can be just things, objets d’art, trinkets, dust collectors …But I believe they can be, and are more, than that. Over the course of my life I have gathered things that are special and unique to me in some way. They reveal a past, emotions, ideologies, desires and hopes and above all, they convey something about shared experiences, of memories, people and experiences.”

Danilo has an impressive collection of Buddha statues; from Fujian China, a Shakyamuni Buddha made from dehua porcelain often referred to as ‘Blanc de Chine’, another from Hanoi, Vietnam and others from Shan, Myanmar, Bangkok Thailand, Kathmandu, Nepal, Kamakura, Japan, and one that holds pride of place, from Bali, Indonesia

Also from Kathmandu is a large tangkha hanging in the dining area, painted by Tenzin Norbu Lama. The central figure is encircled by six depictions of Buddha and all in all there 1,665 hand-painted depictions in this thangkha.

Previous to studying architecture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Danilo studied art and art history and he continues to paint from time to time.  In memory of his much-loved mother there are photographs of her around the home, one of which was the inspiration for the beautiful (duotonepainting he did of her. 

And what does the future hold for Danilo?  “I’ve been in Macau now for 7 years.  I love the place.  Living here has enabled me to reconnect with family.  I’ve tried learning some Cantonese.  I speak passable ‘market Mandarin’; enough to get by.  I’ve made some life-long friends here.  These days Macau has become more transient, it’s a bit like when I lived in London, the coming and going of expatriates. Plus there’s the drain of those locals who leave to study abroad.”  But he recognizes that he has an important role to play here on behalf of Timor-Leste, so for now, Macau is home.