Propelling Art to new Frontiers in Angola

Luanda-based artist RitaGT considers the impact of art collective and the influence of the city on her practice.

© RitaGT. Axiluanda, 2014 . Courtesy of the artist.

© RitaGT. Axiluanda, 2014 . Courtesy of the artist.

Whilst visiting Angola in 2009,  itinerant artist RitaGT realised that she felt compelled to return because it was “a country with such potential, such a rich culture and people.” Now based in Luanda, she along with António Ole, Francisco Vidal, and Nelo Teixeira are the instrumental figures behind cultural initiative and artist collective Created to inspire an international Angolan art movement, has gone on to hold exhibitions in both Angola and Portugal. 

However, apart from her contributions to, it is her fundamental interest in, “the fusion of cultures,” that makes her work so absorbing. It is at once both a reflection upon her manifold artistic journey and the exploration of Angola’s diverse cultural histories.

Therefore, we caught up with RitaGT to hear her thoughts on the impact of and some of the unavoidable infrastructural challenges facing the developing  art scene.

Houghton Kinsman| Considering that you were born in Portugal,  what led you to settle in Angola?

RitaGT| I visited Angola for the 1st time in 2009, during a moment where I was moving my life from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro, and I knew from the 1st day that I had to come back and live here – there was so much to be done, such a country with such potential, such a rich culture and people. So, in 2012 I moved here with my family. I started to teach drawing classes at the University, and always took my students to all the art events as I was so touched by their happiness and enthusiasm!

Since settling and establishing yourself  how would you describe the development of the local art scene?

Angola always had very strong cultural production that unfortunately was reduced, during the thirty years of war. Nowadays, I think that there is a visible production gap in the cultural realm, most significantly in the visual arts. However, from my point of view, it is precisely this gap that makes the most interesting artistic expressions of contemporary art, music and dance possible.

Thus, currently in Luanda, one can observe different stages/types of cultural production [such as contemporary art and performance] that use transversal languages without distancing themselves from the history of Angolan art and expression.

Many of the young Angolan generation were raised abroad, but after the war many of them returned to start working on rebuilding the country, bringing new ideas and energy. These days there is a lot to talk in Angola about: feelings, ideas, and thoughts to share, especially as the country is changing every minute.


© RitaGT. Fall. Action nº1, Luanda, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

© RitaGT. Fall. Action nº1, Luanda, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.


© RitaGT. Fall. Action nº1, Luanda, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

© RitaGT. Fall. Action nº1, Luanda, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.


Do you feel that this renewed energy has impacted your artistic practice?

My practice is essentially built on the experiences I’ve had living in different countries, cities and continents. Since my studies at Maumaus School, in Lisbon, I have been interested in developing an art practice rooted in post-colonial studies and the notion of art as a tool for critical thinking.

This being said, the city inspires me a lot, as there is so much creativity going on all day. Luanda makes me feel useful, and I always wanted to conduct my art practice with social preoccupations, which are all combined here.

Also I’ve been learning a lot from older artists – the masters, and I’m challenging myself to re-think the frontiers of my practice, which means understanding that managing the project or curating exhibitions forms part of it.

Your work with and its impact has shed light on the importance of artist-run collectives and initiatives. What are some of the challenges/successes that you have found working in Angola as a collective and as a young artist?

As a collective, I have realised that the project brings a lot to the local art scene. Luanda doesn’t have established cultural production mechanisms yet, so these types of initiatives are becoming very important.

As an artist, I have had a European/ Occidental art education that always makes me feel the weight of art history. Being here makes feel free from that weight and helps facilitate my critical point of view on it.

Also I’ve have had the privilege of collaborating closely with very interesting people like architects and curators that have a crucial responsibility in supporting the changes happening in the country. It was through this type of collaboration that I got the chance to help/learn from the Venice Biennale team last year.


© RitaGT. Fall. Untitled. (Faces) 1, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

© RitaGT. Fall. Untitled. (Faces) 1, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.


With Angola’s Golden Lion at Venice bringing significant attention to the country and highlighting some of its infrastructural shortcomings, moving forward what do you think needs to be addressed?

There’s a lot to be done. The art school is just starting and there’s a lack of accessible art materials, which makes the costs for production high. The only institution that is currently presenting a consistent agenda is Instituto Camões, however there is also UNAP and Marcela Costa’s gallery but they aren’t focused on emerging art.

It’s important to create an art discourse and discussion between the various cultural agents. I have had to deal with the fact that I’m not Angolan, I’m Portuguese and I have a different cultural background, even though I believe that art is universal and it is my responsibility as an artist to question and dissolve those frontiers.

RitaGT lives and works in Luanda, Angola. She studied communication at the University of Porto and received her Masters Degree from the Malmö Art Academy at Lund University, Malmo, Sweden. Utilising a practice that includes painting, drawing, photography and performance, she was recently highlighted by Contemporary And for her work with Apart from she has had solo exhibitions in Angola and Portugal and has formed part of group exhibitions in Luxembourg and Brazil.

This article forms part of the series Next Chapter: Inquiries into emerging artistic practice


Written by Houghton Kinsman.

Angola| Doing our part to combat immappancy

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