NAIDOC Week - Celebrating Fiona Clarke
Published on 12 July 2018
Fiona Clarke is a Kirrae Whurrong woman and local leader and voice among indigenous people of the southwest. She works in tapestry and painting, and as a children’s author.
The Clarkes are a proud Framlingham family. Fiona’s uncle Reg won a Military medal for “rare bravery” on the Western Front, but died just before the war’s end. Fiona’s father was renowned local activist Banjo Clarke (now deceased), whom she often credits as the inspiration for her traditional storytelling.
Over nearly three decades, Fiona’s works have been displayed in the Melbourne Museum and the Warrnambool Art Gallery, on the streets of Melbourne and even at MONA in Hobart. Her steel sculpture, Eel Trap, stands in Birrarung Marr Park on the Yarra River. In 2016, she was asked by Cricket Australia to design the Aboriginal motif for the 150th anniversary of the first Aboriginal cricket team to play at the MCG.
Her recent exhibition at Warrnambool Art Gallery, An Ever Present Universe told the star dreaming story of the Seven Sisters, a major creation songline for many Indigenous Australian language groups.
Fiona also wrote a children's book, Minkgill Chases the Rainbow. She is the first Aboriginal artist to use tapestry weaving (on an upright loom) as her medium, in addition to painting acrylics on canvas.
And the Clarke family inspirations go further. Fiona’s daughter Tricia McKean is an artist herself, and is a face of the national “Headspace” program for Aboriginal kids. In 2016, Tricia had the high honour of designing Richmond’s “Dreamtime” guernsey.
“Tricia’s AFL guernsey and my selection for the cricket design happened within a few months of each other,” said Fiona. “I was so surprised and happy. I guess we can do it!”
Tricia’s emerging career, proudly watched by her mum, is a perfect reflection of NAIDOC week’s theme this year: “Because of her, we can!”
(Portrait by Brian Dunlop: image credit Warrnambool Art Gallery)