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Maria in Timor-Leste. Photo by David Palazón


Maria Madeira was born in the village of Gleno in the Ermera region of Timor-Leste. The Portuguese Air Force evacuated her from Timor in 1976 during the Indonesian invasion. She spent most of the following eight years in a refugee camp run by the Red Cross on the outskirts of Lisbon in Portugal. She migrated with her family to Australia in August 1983.

Over the years, she obtained several academic qualifications. She graduated with a B.A. Fine Arts (Visual Arts) Degree from Curtin University in 1991. Two years later she received a Graduate Diploma of Education (Major in Art) from the same university. In 1996, she obtained her second degree, a B.A. in Political Science from Murdoch University. In 2019, she finally obtained a postgraduate (Doctor of Philosophy – Art) from Curtin University in Australia.

Between 1996 and 2000, she worked in Western Australia as a high school art teacher, visual artist and cultural advisor for several arts and cultural organisations. Between the 2000 and 2004, she returned to Timor-Leste to live and play her part in the recovery, rebuilding and development of her beloved country and the newest nation in Asia. She currently lives in Perth with her partner and son.

Maria has produced artwork in a wide range of media, from painting to sculpture, drawing, mixed media collage and installation work. Her work has been shown in over 30 international exhibitions across Australia, Portugal, Brazil, Macau, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. 

One of her main concerns as an artist, arts educator and cultural adviser is to convey Timor-Leste’s culture and traditions to other societies—and vice-versa. It is her strong belief that art and culture are the spirit and soul of a nation, and is a vehicle through which future generations can learn to appreciate the beauty and strength of their own culture—and, in this way, discover who they are in the world.

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