Lives & Works in Died 2012, Rome, Italy
Bertina Lopes (1924-2012) was a Mozambican painter, sculptor, and activist whose work highlighted the social criticism and nationalistic fervour that influenced other Mozambican artists of her time. Born in Maputo, Lopes was the daughter of a Portuguese father and African mother. At an early age she left Mozambique to study in Lisbon where she was inspired by and engaged with the avant-garde painting of Portuguese Modernism as well as contemporary artistic international movements. After returning to Mozambique in 1953, cultural nationalism became a crucial influence both ideologically and artistically. Due to her political activism she became an exile in Mozambique and Portugal, moving to Rome in 1963 where she remained for the rest of her life: during this period the subjects of African identity took on a new meaning, expressing an end to colonialism and a desire for independence. After a tumultuous and forced return to Europe, Lopes moved to Rome in 1963 where she remained for the rest of her life:during this period the subjects of African identity took on a new meaning, expressing an end to colonialism and a desire for independence. Despite her work having been the object of two major exhibitions in Lisbon (in 1973 and 1979, respectively), Lopes was never represented by a Portuguese (or, for that matter Italian) commercial gallery—the stark reality of a career as a Black, “third-world” visual artist and mother.
Bertina Lopes achieved significant cultural recognition and won numerous awards and prizes. Her artworks are included in many private and public collections worldwide, such as The Baltimore Museum of Art, USA, National Museum of Modern Art, Maputo and National Museum of Modern Art, Baghdad. In addition to her two participations in the Venice Biennale, major solo exhibitions include the FAO Global Headquarters (Rome) in 1996, the Italian Cultural Center in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) in 1995, the National Museum of Modern Art of Baghdad in 1981, the Museo de Fundaçao Clouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon (Portugal) in 1972, twice at the National Museum Maputo (1982, 2012) as well as two major retrospectives in Rome (1986 and 2002). Her retrospective is currently on view at the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome.