CIMAM 2023 travel grantee Edna Bettencourt
"Art and culture should be vehicles to break social inequalities and allow everyone access to a more dynamic and intuitive learning experience."
Conference Report. November 2023
Before delving into the conference details, I want to express my gratitude to the entire CIMAM team and the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires. From the moment the travel grant winners were announced until the end of the conference, they demonstrated extreme availability, excellent communication, patience, and superb organization. This allowed our experience at this event to begin long before landing in Argentina, in a very positive way. Thank you very much!
I landed in Buenos Aires the day before the start of the conference's intensive program. I comfortably registered and received my kit with a bag, credential, program, and a magazine/newspaper. On the same day, I had the opportunity to visit some exhibition spaces at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires with curator Alejandra Aguado during the visit to the Manifiesto Verde exhibition by Argentine artist Nicolás García Uriburu, located on the ground floor of the museum. Despite the fatigue from nearly 16/18 hours of flight, I also took the chance to explore the exhibition rooms on the upper floor, embarking on a charming journey through diverse universes.
The first day began with a reception/breakfast by the CIMAM team/patrons and others in the museum's cafeteria, which instantly turned into a moment of encounters and reunions. At that moment, I had the opportunity to reunite with professionals such as Meriem Berrada from MACAAL, whom I met in 2019 during the MACAAL Bootcamp in Marrakech. I also met Tandazani Dhlakama from Zeitz Mocaa, with whom I collaborated on the project of the Foundation for which I am the project manager. It's always better to be together after countless Zoom meetings.
We started the presentations with very interesting contributions, engaging in a crucial exercise of reflecting on the social responsibility that museums bear towards the communities around them – a reciprocity between the museum and the visitor that should be established in a transversal manner, fostering a give-and-take relationship.
Among several speakers, Simon Njami on the first day particularly resonated with me. Overall, the speeches that left a lasting impression were related to the imperative for museums to adopt a broader perspective on inclusion and the actual impact on their communities. The theme extended to other speakers throughout the three days. Art is a public good that should be consumed equitably. In the art world, especially with artistic institutions like museums, there is a tendency to create an "elite" around those who frequent museums. The general public, the "non-privileged" of the same social and financial condition, end up being used merely as statistics on the number of visits to a particular exhibition, for example. The second day of the conference was more emotional, in my view. Speaker Daina Leyton undoubtedly prompted the audience to rethink various aspects related to the issue of accessibility. We're not just talking about mobility issues, as unfortunately, in Angola, we still only focus on the placement of access ramps. Instead, we should consider access to culture as a right for all. To progress in this matter, it will be necessary to invest in the education and training of museum professionals so that accessibility is no longer a negotiable issue or a topic for debate.
On this day, teresa cisneros also spoke about the fundamental role that art and culture play in communities, whether at an educational level or in individual empowerment, creating opportunities for citizens. Art and culture should be vehicles to break social inequalities and allow everyone access to a more dynamic and intuitive learning experience. Art and culture should increasingly be detached from the metric of being only for people with a certain economic power. This can be achieved through cultural institutions, museums, etc., which must have, and do have, the responsibility to stop imposing/establishing who can and cannot frequent these spaces. Instead, they should increasingly reinforce their role in re-educating societies.
Finally, I was very pleased that this conference presented itself as inclusive, a theme that interestingly was discussed during the talks, giving space and voice to two representatives of communities that have long fought for their rights globally. I refer to Sidhi Vhisatya, curator of the Queer Indonesia Archive, and María Belén Correa, Founder, and Director of the Argentina Trans Memory Archive. It was very inspiring to hear their stories and experiences.
I have long wanted to participate in CIMAM, and I remember that in 2022, amid a postpartum existential crisis, I tried to apply because I wanted to reintegrate into the artistic milieu. However, I did not complete the application properly, which likely compromised the acceptance of my application. This year, I did things right and was fortunate to be selected. It was crucial to participate in the conference, not only to hear testimonials and perspectives on topics that interest me but particularly for how this event's production connects people from various corners of the world. It was a transformative experience!
My name is Edna Inês Vieira Bettencourt, also known as Edna Bettencourt. I'm and angolan based curator and cultural producer.
Graduated from the University of Aveiro (Portugal) in Translation & Administration, I started my career working as an intern for a gallery assistant at Nuno Sacramento Art Gallery (Aveiro - Portugal). While there I experienced different roles in managing an art gallery, producing exhibitions, art residencies, and art fairs, for 2 years and a half. This experience was a turning point to understand where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do as a professional.
Growing up in Portugal always gave me this sense of non-belonging to that place, so I decided to look for opportunities in the art world in my home land Angola, and I got it! I was hired by MOVART Gallery to manage the project in Luanda, the capital city of Angola. It was a dream coming true. Getting back to my homeland, to my roots, rediscovering family, and having the opportunity to emerge in a new art world context as contemporary African art with so many interesting artists around.
I've worked at MOVART for 4 years where I was able to lead the project together with Janire Bilbao (Director), producing exhibitions and international art fairs and producing cultural events in Luanda as The Music Nigth for the European Union in Angola, and in Lisbon, and a group exhibition and cocktail called Friday 13th at the NOT A MUSEUM. During my time at MOVART, I had the pleasure of working and collaborating with several artists as Mário Macilau, Ana Silva, Keyezua, René Tavares, Ihosvanny Cisneros, António Ole, Binelde Hyrcan, Asíko, and many others from Africa and it's diaspora. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with amazing curators such as Suzana Sousa, Adriano Mixinge, Paula Nascimento, Inês Vale, and also with cultural institutions based in Luanda.
Currently, I'm the Project Manager for The NESR Art Foundation, an independent art foundation founded in 2021 by Hiba and Wissam Nesr. It focuses on supporting Angolan artists, and artists from the continent, through a platform for dialogue and exchange within Africa and internationally. The foundation provides a space for artistic research, production, and critical discourse through its residencies, collection, and educational projects, centered around a creative hub located in Luanda, Angola.
At the Foundation I'm responsible for coordinating the residency program that welcomes 6 artists per year and managing the Foundation's collection.
Recently I've produced Luanda's edition for the group exhibition "The Power of My Hands" from the Museé D'art Moderne the Paris, showing a group of works by sixteen
women artists from various English - and Portuguese - speaking African countries or the diaspora.
During the last 5 years, a had the t joined the MACAAL boot camp in Morocco, where I've met an amazing group of your cultural agents /artists/gallerists from several African countries.