Natalie King in conversation with Maria Maderia: the first Timor-Leste artist at Venice

I had the great pleasure of curating Maria Maderia’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale, whose work “Kiss Don’t Tell” pays tribute to the women of Timor-Leste on the country’s 25th anniversary of independence.
By Natalie King

MARIA MADERIA is a creative who bridges multiple worlds. A Timorese and Australian contemporary artist, she spent her formative adolescent years as a refugee in Portugal after being evacuated from her homeland of Timor-Leste in 1976 when Indonesia invaded. Her extraordinary journey has culminated in her being the first Timorese artist to ever present at the 60th Venice Biennale.

Madeira’s art reveals the strength, resilience and lived experiences of the Timorese women during the Indonesian military regime. Her work seeks to uncover uncomfortable truths, giving voice to those who are voiceless. The message in Madeira’s work is profoundly urgent: “we’ve never had a chance to talk about the women, the plight of the women during the Timorese Resistance. These matters have been silenced for a long time”. As an artist who uniquely melds traditional Timorese crafts with contemporary concerns that resonate globally, it is triumphant that this year Madeira represents Timor-Leste in the Venice Biennale, the largest and most prestigious art event in the world.

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