Villas&Golfe Angola
· Architecture · · T. Joana Rebelo · P. Rights Reserved

Paula Nascimento

«I carry Angola in everything I do»

PMmedia Adv.
The youngest of four siblings, Paula Nascimento comes from a family that fought for the country’s independence. At 41, she has already lived in Luanda, Lisbon and London, before eventually returning definitively to her homeland in 2010. Determination is part of her genes, and the curator’s extensive CV is proof of this. She studied at the UK’s oldest school for architecture and later worked at Siza Vieira’s studio and other studios in London. Hand in hand with contemporary art, Paula continues to chart her path with many projects underway and many more in sight, to be discovered in the next few lines.

Tell us about your origins.
I was born in Luanda in 1981, into a family engaged in the processes of the struggle for independence, as on my mother’s side as my father’s. I am the youngest of four siblings, I lived and grew up in Luanda until I was 11 years old, when I went to Lisbon to study. After secondary school, I moved to London, where I entered higher education, before returning for good to Luanda in 2010. 

You have made an international reputation for yourself when it comes to architecture and curating. When did you realise that you wanted to work in these fields?
I have always liked the arts and drawing; I wanted to study architecture since I was a child. And, in a way, all my education was directed towards that field. Curating came about much later, almost accidentally, as an expansion of my work in the field of architecture. 

Did your parents have any influence in your choice of vocation?
My parents always gave me and my siblings the freedom to choose what we wanted to do. Therefore, they always supported my decision to study architecture, as well as the subsequent choices.  

You have an extensive CV. You went to London South Bank University...
Yes, I studied there, but before that I was at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA), where I did a foundation course and my honours degree. The AA is the UK’s oldest independent school of architecture and, at the time I was there, it was a very experimental school, with a very strong artistic and international perspective. There, I had the opportunity to interact with students from different locations and study with different tutors and under a flexible system where the student was pretty much in charge of their own path. I studied architecture within the framework of photography, film, writing and so it was an experience that played an important role in my education and the way I developed my career. Many of my employees, colleagues and professional partners are from this period. Then I spent a year at Siza Vieira’s studio, working on the Cidade Velha renovation project, in Cape Verde, and worked in other practices in London, before returning to Luanda. 

«I was born (…) into a family engaged in the processes of the struggle for independence»

Your artistic vein covers the pan-African cultural uprising. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I work with contemporary art made in Africa and in the diaspora, and much more besides. Naturally there is still a lot to be done in this context, especially in Angola and other Portuguese-speaking countries, but I practice in a wide context with various curators and artists.
In the last 15 to 20 years, there has been greater attention placed on contemporary production on the continent, much due to the work of curators, artists and events such as the Feira 1:54 fair, among other, both on the continent (such as biennials and art fairs) and internationally. Even so, for a long time, when talking about African art, the discourse was immediately relegated to the classic arts (masks and statues), almost as if there was no other type of production; and, recently, there is interest and demand for modern and contemporary arts, which are also beginning to be better understood.
So, and in several cases, for many curators working in the field of contemporary art, there is a double function of making these other, more marginalised «art stories» visible, through research, publications and exhibitions; and also of trying to find other paradigms and terminologies that reflect the complexity of the artistic production on the continent, as well as its relationship with other spaces; and, mainly, that you don’t end up homogenising the production of such a diverse continent. 

What projects are you developing at the moment?
At the moment I have several projects underway. I am preparing two exhibitions of a more experimental and multidisciplinary nature: one for a European art gallery and another for a space-project in New York, with young artists and within some of the subjects I have been working on. Both for the beginning of next year. In addition to these, I have developed a long relationship with the Lubumbashi Biennale (I am an associate curator of the 7th Biennale, which took place this year) and I am the artistic director of the Nesr Art Foundation, a new project of art residencies for emerging artists in Luanda. In addition, I have some research and editorial projects, which I am developing in parallel with other activities. 
What message do you want to convey through your works?
As a curator, I have the privilege of being able to articulate seemingly disparate topics and, with this, stimulate reflections or new perspectives on certain subjects. I am interested in contemporary readings of history, in reflections on post-colonial cities and in the complexity of the construction of identities. So, it is an intellectual construction that deals with different perspectives and relevant issues of the here and now, through collaborations and readings of artists.
The curators develop and propose ways in which objects, archives and artworks can be read and interpreted, through research, exhibitions, publications, events, audio-visual presentations, among others, and going on to tell stories too.For me, as I have a background in architecture, space (physical and social) and form, the way in which the exhibition project responds to a particular place, ends up playing a major role in my work. 

Do you consider yourself an ambassador of Angola?
Not necessarily. I am Angolan, I work a lot with Angolan artists and others, and I carry Angola in everything I do. However, I don’t consider myself an ambassador. 

«There is still a great discrepancy, in terms of visibility and recognition, between women artists in relation to men»

Do you think the country has talents that deserve greater recognition?
Of course. 

Have you ever been the victim of discrimination during your professional career?
I have been through several situations, but nothing that has had a great influence on the development of my career. 

You travel a lot through different cultures. For you, in which country is art most lived and felt?
It is impossible to choose one. I think that each context is different and has its own specific characteristics. There are countries that have a more structured sector and others less so, and sometimes this has an impact on the quality of what you see and consume. But it is difficult to choose just one country. 

Do Angolan women have an important role in the artistic world?
Yes, they do. In the art world (modern and contemporary, and not only in Angola), there is still a great discrepancy, in terms of visibility and recognition, between women artists in relation to men. But this is an issue that is under constant discussion and evolution. 

We are celebrating the 13th anniversary of Villas&Golfe,in Angola. What have these last years represented for you in your life and in the country’s life?
This is more or less the time I returned to Luanda after living abroad for a long time and, therefore, it has been a journey of discovery, transformation and growth. I think that in this period the country has also been going through many transformations, social and political, and I hope that we can improve so that future generations have better living conditions.
T. Joana Rebelo
P. Rights Reserved