Born in Luanda in a highly political family, Paula Nascimento had always had a feeling that she would become an architect. She then moved to Lisbon for high school, and later on moved to London to study architecture.
When asked about her views on architecture and urban planning on the continent, Nascimento mentioned that she prefers to speak of contexts she knows intimately rather than attempt to speak for the whole continent. “In Angola for example there is a tendency for thinking about master plans which sometimes have little to do with the local context and with people’s lives; trying to emulate other models. I think that it is important to start working from the bottom and to understand the specifics needs,” Nascimento states.
Nascimento is also an independent curator. However, she does not see a difference between her work as an architect and her work as a curator. Specific foundational concepts guide her curatorial practice, with her interests ranging from issues related to urban life in contemporary African cities, to the complexities of identity in contemporary Africa. “I tend to work with artists experimenting and using video, and photography, and who are interested in new visual languages, as well as archival and post-archival processes,” Nascimento explains.
From Hands to Mind (2016) is an exhibition that Nascimento conceptualized and co-curated with Italian curator, architect and architectural theorist, Stefano Rabolli Pansera. This project, completed with guest curator Aladino Jasse, was commissioned by the Experimenta Design in Lisbon in 2015. It attempted to unravel other approaches to design in the space of Portuguese speaking African countries. Featuring work by Oficina Inhambane (Mozambique), Atelie Rastafá (Sao Tome E Principe), Mr Wilson Antonio (Angola), the exhibition was part of the Design Biennial 2015 in Lisbon and later part of the Milan Triennale. This exhibition touches on one of the points of conversation at the African Mobilities Praia Exchange – unpacking the design, artistic and semantic frameworks that comes with the term “Lusophone” (referring to Portuguese-speaking countries outside of Portugal), and ways to deconstruct this.
Nascimento also started a research network with Pansera called Beyond Entropy Africa. “It operates outside the conventional boundaries of the disciplines and focuses on developing research-based projects in the fields of architecture/urbanism, visual arts and geopolitics.” Beyond Entropy Africa’s work focuses on Luanda and a paradigm for the urban transformations that are happening in the region. This is tackled through transdisciplinary projects from installations, critical texts, and curatorial projects.
In addition to this, Nascimento continues to engage in a well-rounded, multidisciplinary understanding of her practice through the cultural collective she co-founded, Colectivo Pés Descalços. The other members include Januario Jano (Angolan multimedia artist and the main curator of the TED conferences in Luanda); historian and curator Susana Sousa; Ngoi Salucombo (Angolan photographer and writer); Adalberto Cawaia and Cesar da Silveira (designer). With the objective of developing and producing cultural and educational projects, Colectivo Pés Descalços has been a part of theatre productions, book launches and discussions around art and culture, joint curatorial projects, among other projects.
Nascimento’s involvement in academic, architectural and curatorial practices meant that she was a perfect fit for African Mobilities‘ Praia Exchange – a combination of workshops and talks that emphasizes cross-disciplinary engagements. Praia as the site for the Exchange played into how discussions unfolded, with a conversation on mobility from the vantage point of an African island filtering into topics on development, identity and unpacking city textures. The discussion on the deconstruction of the “concept of Lusophony”, as well as Nascimento’s lecture entitled “Dislocated Territories”, enabled the panelists to create bridge between Luanda and Praia.
Reflecting on the significance of African Mobilities as a platform for various African practitioners to meet, Nascimento mentioned that, “From the minute that we were invited to be part of the project, it already opened up a channel of exchange and conversations, it is a project ongoing beyond and main exhibition…It is important that we communicate and interact even more, at every level, especially at the level of production of content or critical thinking.”