Linear Artists: Maree Clarke

I am connected to the traditional lands of the Mutti Mutti, Boon Wurrung and Wemba Wemba and to the Trawlwoolway in Tasmania by lineage through Mannalargenna.

As a multidisciplinary artist, my creative arts practice is based on reviving elements of Aboriginal culture that haven’t been practised for a very long time. Research is an integral part of my creative process. I go to museums and work with collections and study the objects that are held there.

But to me it is also important that I take my family on that journey with me because at its core, my practice is about building community and passing cultural knowledge to the next generation.

The kangaroo-tooth necklace has been constructed with my nieces and nephews. My husband showed them the process of taking the kangaroo sinew out of the tail and I showed them how to lay the necklace out and how to bind the teeth. Then they completed it — as a family. We drive through Country and collect roadkill to make sure that none of those animals has died in vain and we’ve given them another life reinforcing their place within our culture.

The river-reed necklaces are based on traditional talisman that were given to people passing through Country as a sign of safe passage and friendship. We collect the river reeds from the Maribyrnong River in Victoria, which is Boon Wurrung Country, and create these architectural necklaces to reinforce our traditions as they develop and remain relevant in contemporary Australia.

When you enter Linear, you are greeted with my supersized photographs of Aboriginal men and women in mourning. With the permission of the Elders, I worked with 38 Aboriginal women and 45 Aboriginal men to explore traditional mourning processes including the making of Kopi caps (clay caps during mourning), body adornment and scarification.

The women made their Kopi caps, used white ochre to mark their faces and wore black dresses as an acknowledgment of contemporary practices while the men wore black t-shirts with renderings of a range of body scarification patterns. I collected stories of loss or mourning from both men and women.