Photography by Graham Denholm. Image from http://grahamdenholm.com/portraits/
On Monday Melbourne’s unequivocal mother of creativity Mirka Mora passed away at the monumental age of 90. She has tirelessly graced the streets of Melbourne with telling artworks bursting with colour and soul since her arrival from France in the 50s. Born in Paris to a Romanian Jewish mother, Celia Gelbein, and a Lithuanian Jewish father, Leon Zelik Mirka, with whom she spent the duration of the Second World War hiding in a forest in France with. Despite experiencing war and hatred at such a young age, she defied all odds going on to fill her works and others’ lives with such an intense display of love. No small feat. Creating art so boldly in a time when few women did, Mirka has always been an inspiration for young artists. Having survived the horrors of the holocaust, Mirka migrated to Australia and quickly became a prominent figure in Melbourne’s artistic landscape. Painting has been the central medium throughout her career, however she has also created brilliant sculptures, mosaics and hand painted dolls. From owning well known cafes which doubled as artist hubs to creating mosaic murals scattered across the city and collaborations with Australian fashion brand Gorman, Mirka’s works and bohemian influences adorn the city today and forever.
A long and fulfilling life erupting with colour and exuberance, we say goodbye and thank you to Mirka Mora and pay tribute to some of the wonderful things she created:
“Art is free, but of course you have to be alert to catch it when it comes onto the canvas. I don’t choose the ideas, they choose me. I don’t wait for them. They come without my permission!”
Mirka with her hand painted dolls. Image from: pinterest.com.au/pin/473581717058259525/
“Art is the child of imagination and gives life.”
Cheeky smiles in her home studio in Melbourne. Image from: http://www.samaramagazine.com.au/the-indelible-artiste-mirka-mora/.
“I am self-taught in everything, all my schooling, and all my painting – I never wanted to follow the rules. But you have to know the rules so you can avoid them!”
Mirka infront of her mural at Flinders Street Station. Image from: http://australia.trendolizer.com/2018/08/in-pictures-the-life-of-mirka-mora.html
On her greatest achievements:
“Well, my three sons and my lover. That’s four things. Got nothing to do with painting does it!!? (laughs). Actually, that’s got a lot of things to do with painting. Because to be a painter you have to be a complete human being, don’t you? Or a photographer, or a writer, you have to be fulfilled in all ways… otherwise, your brain is empty like a pancake. I don’t want pancake in my brain!”
Photography by Athol Shmith 1955. Image from https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/art-and-design/mirka-mora-mikra.
In a 2012 interview she gave us some powerful advice on self love:
“You have to adore yourself – voilà!”…“You must love yourself like your own child. Even if it appears outrageous, you need to spoil yourself”…“I come first. I’m a mean dog!” …“People neglect themselves, and complain about every little thing. Nurture yourself, have imagination and think laterally!”
Image from https://www.art-almanac.com.au/mirka-mora-new-work/ .
An interview in 1990 with The Age musing about death Mirka said:
“It is gruesome,”… “I think everything is funny. It’s so funny that we have to die. It’s cruel, but it’s terribly funny. You have all these dreams and you’ve got to leave everything.”…“In my grave I’ll take some brushes and some paint. You never know!”
Mirka Mora in the ‘Monsieur Mayonnaise’ film she starred in in the Jewish International Film. Picture Trevor Graham https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/wentworth-courier/documentary-monsieur-mayonnaise-reveals-how-a-sandwich-was-a-ww2-saviour/news-story/121ec0e1405d6424a39b4d74ec9fac60.
Sometimes pictures speak a lot louder than words. This is definitely the case with Mirka. A woman who has made an immense impression on our cultural scene, a woman with a zest for life like no other and passion beyond words, Mirka’s joie de vivre is eternally cemented into Australian history.
Rest in paradise Mirka, a true icon who embodied shamelessly being yourself with so much joy and will be greatly missed by many.
Alice is a volunteer at the Victorian Women’s Trust and a student at the University of Melbourne where she is studying a Master of Global Media Communication. Alice is passionate about gender equality and believes it cannot not be achieved until the struggles of all kinds of women are heard. She is also passionate about pizza and her dog Scout (if you’re asking).