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BERTINA LOPES MARY ANGELA SCHROTH FRANCESCA CAPRICCIOLI mm!JJournal of Contemporary African Art· Fall/Winter 1995 Bertina Lopes, Homoge to Picasso (1974). Oil on eanvas-80x100 em. (ourtesy of Sala 1. Rome. Photo BiennaLe Arte Sacra, Stauros International. The life of Bertina Lopes parallels the various political stages of Mozambique. Born in Maputo during colonialism, of a Portuguese father and Mozambican mother, Lopes had the privilege of a middle-class upbringing along with her three sisters. Her father, an entrepreneur in the leather industry, was cultivated and liberal and not entirely happy with the "fascist" regime of Salazar in Portugal. Lopes was aware of racism at an early age. When she was twelve years old, her father permitted her to attend school in Lisbon, since education was limited in Maputo, and the neighboring country of South Africa, though more developed, did not permit people of mixed descent to attend white schools. Bertina thus attained a European education , later attending the Academy in Lisbon and traveling to other European cities including Paris where she met Picasso and other artists. Influences in Portugal included Carlos Botelho, Cargaleiro, Vespeira, Mantua, Pinheiro, Sampaio and others. Returning to Mozambique in 1952, Lopes married a European Mozambican who was a poet, journalist, and activist and was imprisoned for two years for his political activities. Five hundred years of colonial rule and the heavy hand of the Salazar regime forced the artist into a clandestine political life, although her friendships with Mozambican intellectuals grew. Poets Noemia de Souza and especially Jose Craveirinha influenced her greatly. Important too, was her friendship with Pancho Gherdes, an influential architect whose works recall Gaudi. Gherdes, a Portuguese, was instrumental as a catalyst and mentor for Mozambique artists: He opened his home as an informal gallery and salon and strove to encourage fresh directions rather than the continuing imposition of European criteria. Another extremely important Mozambican artist, Valente Malangatana , was also part of this group of artists. Forced to leave Mozambique in 1961 due to her political activism, Lopes considered herselflucky to be awarded a scholarship to study at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. There she studied ceramics with Querubim Lapa. After her studies ended in 1963, she moved to Italy, a country with which she felt close political and cultural ties. Her first contact upon arrival was with Urbano Roderiguez and later Carlo Levi, an important influence that brought her into Roman communist intellectual circles so important in the early 1960s. Lopes continued her art and her politics, serving as a punta di appaggia for the various Mozambican intellectuals and refugees living in Italy. The fight for Mozambique's independence was fierce, and these times are amply recorded in Lopes paintings. 1975 witnessed independence for Mozambique but the war did not end. Civil war broke out soon after and did not leave the country until 1992. This time it was war between the Mozambique government and the Renamo, a destabilizing faction unceasing in its efforts to unseat the new government . The closeness of the suffering, torture, and death of civilians and children all made a continued impact on the work of Lopes. As an artist who underlines the theme of identity as the key to social change, Bertina Lopes represents a great link between the diversity of cultures synchronized in a proud and cultivated individualism. Today, she still plays an important role in Rome, serving as the cultural attache of her country's consulate . Her rooftop penthouse is famous for its dinners where African diplomats, journalists, and intellectuals meet those of Rome. The impact of her house/studio immediately transmits much of the exuberant personality of the artist. Filled with a warm profusion of abundance , a feeling of generosity, and lively confusion, a considerable number of canvases are stacked vertically against the walls in an order that seems privy of criteria on a guesswork toward the Journal of Contemporary African Art· Fan/Winter 1995 ~ Bertina Lopes, Three Moments: Birth, Life, Death (1988). Oil on eanvas-160xl40 em. Courtesy of Sala I, Rome. Photo Biennale Arte Sacra, Stamos International. necessity of a continuing and very moveable transfer-as if she had a constant need to turn the pages of her own...


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