Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta woman from northwest Victoria, began working as an Aboriginal Educator in 1978 in her hometown of Mildura. Her working life as an artist has seen her develop as a pivotal figure in the reclamation of southeast Australian Aboriginal art practices, as well as a leader in nurturing and promoting the diversity of contemporary southeast Aboriginal artists.
By the early 1990s, Maree was an important figure in the Victorian Aboriginal arts scene, involved in introducing the diverse talents of Indigenous artists from around Victoria.
A growing awareness concerning the need for more inclusive approaches to the telling of Aboriginal stories from Aboriginal perspectives led to the establishment of the Koorie Arts Unit in Melbourne. The Unit continues to be a hub for Indigenous artists to express themselves and their art in a supportive and understanding environment.
Maree completed a Master of Arts thesis titled 'Reflections on Creative Practice, Place & Identity'. Her research provided the inspiration for a series of art projects to reinvigorate the designs of her Ancestors in her contemporary art practice. This research continues to be significant in providing information about the material culture of her Ancestors.
With fellow Koorie artists, Maree designed the contemporary cloaks worn by 35 Elders and community representatives at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. This was the first time in over 150 years that possum-skin cloaks had been worn for ceremonial purposes.
This exhibition, Ritual and Ceremony, is Maree's creation and installation of Kopi mourning caps. These awe inspiring caps represent Maree's latest work researching the rituals and ceremonies of her ancestors.
Maree's inclusive approach to art practices – where art and culture are inseparable to all other aspects of life – has seen her involved in working with many members of the Aboriginal community. The capacity for art to enable people to reconnect with their cultural heritage and to assist in their recovery remains central to Maree's philosophy. For Maree, art has the power to heal and inspire people to positively identify with their Aboriginality, a process that can be difficult given the ongoing negative effects of colonisation.