Sharing Madeiran Memories
On 2 November 2021, the UCT Irma Stern Museum rang with the laughter, stories, memories and emotions of Madeira. As part of the exhibition Memórias da Madeira, the museum hosted a number of Madeirans who, though born on the island, as children moved with their families to South Africa. Over traditional treats such as Rebuçados de Funcho and Pastéis de Nata, the conversation ranged from festivities and village-specific specialities to the difficulties of fishing life.
For the museum team, it was a special treat to see how paintings, sketches and drawings Irma Stern made in Madeira rekindled memories. Victor Henriques, Chairperson of the Portuguese Cultural Club, spoke about the specific flavour of each village and allowed us, as ISM staff, to understand better the context of the paintings. Irma Stern did not title some of the work, but Victor and fellow guests Maria and Fatima were able to identify features in the painted landscapes so that now, there is a geographic locale linked to these works. For Angela, seeing her birth town of Câmara de Lobos as painted by Stern reminded her of a childhood on an island that she left in 1965 and to which she has never yet returned.
It is poignant to think that all of our Madeiran visitors were born in the late 1940s and left the island in the early 1960s – roughly the same time as Irma Stern’s last two visits to the island.