1985 Hamburg, Germany


Fine Arts at HFBK Hamburg
(with Michaela Melian, Isaac Julien)


Iceland Academy of the Arts

February 2008

Diplom of Fine Arts




PERFORMANCE of the new hit single “BROKEN DICK” by Melody Laverne Bettencourt and Judy Trinks Loutezamo, THE AWKWARD BLACK SINGLE MOMS Exgirlfriend, Belrlin


30 Jahre Schwarze Frauen* bewegung in deutschland DEFRA, Berlin


Zwiegespräche, Frauenkreis, Berlin (Solo)
Reflections, S.U.S.I, Berlin (Solo)
Between two worlds I do belong, Atelier Klangvoll, Berlin (Solo)
The Company We Keep, alpha nova-kulturwerkstatt & galerie futura, Berlin


Arriving in the Future: Stories of Home and Exile Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin


Resistance and Longing, AgvA¹, CIAT, Contemporary Institute for Art & Thought e.v., Berlin
BLACK LUX, ein Heimatfest aus Schwarzen Perspektiven, Ballhaus Naunynstraße, Berlin
Méduse & Cie, Figge von Rosen Galerie, Berlin


Peace supporting operation, Galerie Hermann Breker, Kassel


Tyche & Automaton, INFERNOESQUE, Berlin
Linie Sonne Höhle, Studio Frisinger, Berlin


#5 neunundneunzig, im Namen des Raumes, Berlin
Index Kunstpreis, Kunsthaus, Hamburg
Index 10, Kunsthaus, Hamburg
Verortung, eines Morgens [MAKNETE] |Silberraum | Die Schute ||Hamburg (Solo)
Collaborations - Give and Take, Feinkunst Krueger, Hamburg


Die Katze, Galerie Ulrike Horst, Hamburg


Wir nennen es Hamburg, Kunstverein Hamburg
Diplomausstellung, HfbK Hamburg


Plattform # 3, Kunstverein Hannover
Fish06, Rostock
P1/udk, Berlin


Index, Kunsthaus Hamburg


In her video installations, paintings and collages, Melody LaVerne Bettencourt prepares a stage populated by women freedom fighters, hybrid identities and a playing with her own roots. Her interest is directed towards the role of women in post-colonial societies or during times of change/revolution. Material is provided by her own origin, the history of the native land of her mother, Cape Verde. In this respect, this group of islands is interesting as it was the first outpost for deportations of Africans on the way to the Americas and as a former Portuguese colony it only gained its independence in 1975. The memory of the change is fresh and Bettencourt takes advantage of this in a series of interviews with women contemporary witnesses.

Her first work on the way into this complex world is Sodade (Yearning) from 2008. Here, two monitors face each other: on one is the artist at Hamburg’s harbour, on the other is her mother on the coast of São Vicente, a Cape Verdean island. Across the seas and continents mother and daughter sing a song (whose title is also Sodade), which for the artist’s parents’ generation bears a dual message about the departure into an alien world and the connectedness to one’s origin. Symbolically, Sodade traces the intimate feelings of mother and daughter, an important subject for Cape Verdean people.

In respect of the development of Bettencourt’s art, Sodade represents a double twist: on the one hand, from fictitious stories to documentaries and media reflections (often the role of the camera or those being filmed shifts to the centre of attention); on the other hand a geographical reality, the work forming a bridge that also defines from where she films and how she seeks as a filming artist. The title of the work/song can thus serve as an identification for the view through the camera, a yearning glance. The observer also meets the same in the video “Morgenröte – für Ze Paris” (Aurora for Ze Paris), which is difficult to classify on a formal level. It could be read as both a music video (staged) or a home video (coincidental), and a kind of portrait in the Warholian sense. One sees a person whose gender and age cannot initially be clearly identified (at first the person appears to be a mature woman, gradually one perceives a middle-aged drag queen), on a terrace, in the background roofs of mostly tumble-down houses. She sings a song, however, as one soon discovers, the lip movements do not match the text and after a slow motion passage accentuating a theatrical stance, the story becomes lost in individual poses and gestures. Woven into the song there is the barking of a dog and the stage directions, the cheers and the spurring on of the artist as well as a second person (the observer?) outside of the picture. It ends with a gesture of reluctance of the person being filmed with which she disappears from the field of vision of the camera. “Morgenröte – für Ze Paris” is a network of individual criss-crossing threads and forms a counterpart to the identity of the person being filmed. The sensual game with sexual identity is complemented through the content of the song being sung (a bossa nova about the transience of all happiness) by a serious and tragic aspect. It takes place against a background of a society, which in a similar manner is trying to weave the various strands of its colonial past to one fabric. Queer people such as Ze Paris constitute odd exceptions. Macho behaviour characterizes most of the male population, the family structures are sustained for the most part by the women.

It is these latter to which Melody LaVerne Bettencourt devotes herself in her paintings. She portrays both women, who in the independence movement were active in their country who however operated in a hidden world (for example, by organizing secret, forbidden meetings), and also female composers, writers, historians, dancers and workers. The portraits are in oil on gold leaf, which gives them an iconic aura and in particular are reminiscent of portrayals of the Black Madonna. The chosen form expresses the reverence of those portrayed, through which they are to be considered less as conventional pictures but rather acquire their value through the performative aspect. Furthermore, they refer to the remarkable fact that in the churches of a country with a black population (Cape Verde is 80% Catholic), portrayals of white saints are to be exclusively found. The interest in the black Madonna harks back to pre-Christian cults around often black or ‘dark’ fertility, mother and earth goddesses.