Kiss and Don’t Tell
April 20–November 24, 2024
Maria Madeira, a prominent contemporary artist from Timor-Leste, will represent her country at the upcoming 60th International Venice Biennale, taking place from April 20 to November 24, 2024.
Madeira’s participation marks Timor-Leste’s inaugural pavilion at the prestigious art exhibition and coincides with the 25th anniversary of the country’s independence. The Timor-Leste Pavilion is commissioned by the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Culture and curated by Professor Natalie King OAM.
Madeira’s site-specific installation, titled Kiss and Don’t Tell, draws on her personal experiences of displacement and her deep connection to Timor-Leste’s traditions and history. The immersive artwork incorporates local materials such as tais (traditional textile), betelnut, earth, and pigments.
Responding to the Venice Biennale’s overarching theme, Stranieri Ovunque—Foreigners Everywhere, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Madeira’s work explores themes of displacement, trauma, and resilience. She imbues the installation with her lived experience of growing up in a refugee camp in Portugal with her mother.
Through performative elements, Madeira kisses the walls of the pavilion while singing traditional songs from her village in the Indigenous language Tetun. One of the songs she will sing is Ina Lou, a haunting Timorese mourning song known across generations.
Madeira’s cultural activism pays homage to the women of Timor-Leste and the suffering of women globally. Her installation offers solace and a murmur of hope and healing.