Surrounded by Silence Maria Madeira in Venice

Chaos. Stillness. Extinction. Fragments. Fingerprints. Amnesia. Flight. Belonging. Survival. Translation.

It’s a lot to weave from silence.

Timor-Leste’s inaugural representing artist at the 2024 Venice Biennale, Maria Madeira, sits in momentary silence, threading thoughts with memory.

'Everywhere I go there is always this question: Where are you from?'



Madeira was born in the coffee growing district of Ermera in the central highlands of the 22-year independent island nation of Timor-Leste, an hour out of the country’s capital, Dili. Her identity is formed by cumulative cultural, political and geographic fragmentations of experience, tragedy and assimilation. 

Timor-Leste’s particular tragedy emerged in the slipstream of one country’s hegemonic collapse and another’s ruthless expansionism, caught between the disintegration of Portuguese colonialism in late 1974, and Indonesia’s brutally violent 24-year occupation.1

The canopy of coffee plantations of Madeira’s birth-place became a haven of strategic resistance, concealment, threat and attrition. Her family splintered in late 1975 and scattered across countries and cities, a complex geographic sanctuary. Madeira and part of her family initially settled in refugee camps in Quinta da Graca and Vale do Jamor in Portugal before, in 1983, moving to Perth, Western Australia.


Source: Art + Australia Magazine