‘Kiss and Don’t Tell’: Conversation with Maria Madeira

Advocacy for Timor-Leste’s culture and tradition is a central concern in Maria Madeira’s work as an artist, arts educator and cultural advisor. Born in the village of Gleno in the Ermera region of Timor-Leste, she escaped the violent annexation of East Timor in 1975 and spent eight years in a refugee camp in Lisbon, Portugal. She later migrated with her family to Australia in 1983.

Maria is among the founding group of contemporary East Timorese artists engaging in an artistic movement that incorporates fragments of Timorese tradition. In the 1990s, the movement was an expression of resistance against the occupation of East Timor. Today, it is a celebration of Timor-Leste identity and culture. Maria’s expansive body of work spans these themes, speaking out on dark histories such as the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991 and the abuse of Timorese women by the Indonesian military. Equally important are her efforts as an educator empowering the future generation of artists and her research on the intangible heritage of East Timor.

I speak to Maria on the occasion of her solo presentation ‘Kiss and Don’t Tell’ (2024) in the Timor-Leste pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale. She is the first artist to represent the young country at the major international platform, as it marks its 25th year of independence. Curated by Professor Natalie King, ‘Kiss and Don’t Tell’ draws from tales of matrilineal survival and resistance, in homage to the voiceless women of Timor-Leste.

Continue reading...