Ancestral Memory

Old Quad, University of Melbourne

The newly refurbished Old Quad is thrilled to inaugurate its treasury gallery with the exhibition, Ancestral Memory, from Maree Clarke (Mutti Mutti/Wemba Wemba/Yorta Yorta/Boon Wurrung). A renowned cultural ‘revivifyer’, Clarke has been active in reclaiming the visual/material culture of her Ancestors and re-thinking this in line with her lived experiences as a contemporary southeast Australian Aboriginal artist.

Ancestral Memory tells the story of water on the lands of the Kulin Nation. Diving into the history of Old Quad’s location, the Kulin Nation cultural advisor Jefa Greenaway says, ‘[w]hat transpired from this research was that the story of water has always been and continues to be very important to this place. It is a story that traverses the campus.’

A central feature of the exhibition, Clarke’s dramatic glass eel trap shares both ancient and contemporary connections. Displayed alongside two woven eel traps, the distinctive patterns and methods of weaving connect these items to place; to a series of waterways running thick with eels and ancestral memory. Greenaway assures us that ‘[t]he eels continue to swim through the storm water pipes of the University. They rear their heads up in some of the ponds and storm water grates that exist on the campus.’

A powerful demonstration of resilience, Clarke’s Ancestral Memorylaunches the Old Quad into the next chapter while keeping a firm grasp on the past.

Image: Installation view of Ancestral Memory. Artist Maree Clarke. Photograph © Christian Capurro