Anita Lester

Reflections on Mirka Mora: Child of the holocaust, mother of our Melbourne

We might have recently lost Mirka Mora, but to me, she is inexorably linked to the past, and the memories of home that never waver.

 

 

If I close my eyes, I can smell the briny air skimming on the Saint Kilda Pier.

It’s a Sunday in 1994, and I am balancing on the cement barriers that separate the fishermen from the tourists and rollerbladers.

I am about to be gifted a strawberry milkshake whilst looking for penguins, even though I am told they are sleeping.

After walking up the esplanade admiring the shells with glued googly-eyes, and with wind chimes painting the air with sound, I see a new addition to my weekend journeys. I stand on a raised mosaic platform, perfectly whimsical, colourful and familiar.

It’s Mirka Mora’s map of St Kilda, and to this day, when I think of my home, I see this exact map.

 

Mirko Mora’s mosaic on the Esplanade at St Kilda

 

At eight, I became fascinated with expression through artwork (of all forms). It is, in so many ways, the purest and most human way to release those feelings that are oftentimes impossible to articulate.

Life as we know it is brightened by the voices of our creative elders, and the beauty of art is that it remains, in a profound and tangible way, long after the artists leave us, allowing the echoes of fingerprints and colour choices, sketches and movement, to be felt.

Being a granddaughter of the Holocaust, I often ruminate on how many brilliant visionaries have been taken too early by war – but perhaps it is also the war that allows the visions.

Mirka Mora was one of the lucky ones.

She was silently removed from the horrors of Nazi Europe, which she experienced in its darkest form, and as a young bride, landed on the shores of Melbourne.

She said herself that she “missed Auschwitz by one day”, as her family were in-amongst the first of the Jews to be deported from their homes.

If it were not for her father, who fought in the French resistance alongside her future husband, Gorges, she would have been another number.


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Australia in the 1950s, with its ochre tones, shrub mythology and unrealised architecture, would have been a strange place to arrive to – especially from a post-war city with nothing but an innate need to express.

Mirka somehow found ways to do so outside of the frivolous noise – and perhaps her sensuous skills as a mime, performer and artist were distilled, which allowed her to give the world a perfect vision.

 

Mirka Mora Tram, 1980

 

She was an originator of Australian Bohemia, a gift to society we often take for granted.

Her woven tones, shapes and forms could not be made by anyone else; her unique countercultural perspective created something brilliant and alive.

I heard her speak on a few occasions that in so many ways, once the art she makes leaves her, it belongs to the world.

 

Flinders Street Station Mural

 

And there was her gift: to paint the streets with happiness through colour and clay. To bring life to brick and mortar, and wine and food to the lips of the singing, swinging masses. To inspire a community to feel joy in-amongst pain. To be a woman in the world and to celebrate the feminine form and expression that exists in the space between our breasts. To laugh. To find happiness and hope.

Mirka – wherever you are, I hope you are flashing your bottom at the serious faces that will miss the gift you gave to the world.

 

 

 

Anita Lester

After starting her journey with alt-pop trio 'Me and the Grown-ups' before moving onto the moniker 'Lester the Fierce', Anita Lester is ready to debut her solo project. Over the past decade, Anita has become known as 'The tiny church with Cathedral pipes'. She describes her writing as lyrically driven, and her music cinematically inspired.

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