A cross-cultural cloak of many colours

The cloak being constructed during workshops in Prato

The cloak being constructed during workshops in Prato

The traditional textiles centre of Europe has produced a uniquely Australian garment with the help of artist-in-residence at Monash University's Prato Centre, Maree  Clarke.

Ms Clarke, of the Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta and Boonerwrung people of north west Victoria has spent the past three months in Prato, educating the local community on her work through a series of workshops and public events. These workshops have produced a unique possum skin cloak, similar to those worn by Ms Clarke's ancestors for ceremonial purposes, but featuring textiles woven in Prato.

Ms Clarke's practice is intertwined with her Australian Aboriginal cultural heritage and focuses on reclaiming traditions. She has created traditional garments, jewelry and has explored designs used on hunting shields.

With fellow Koorie artists, Ms Clarke created the possum skin cloaks that featured in the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

"It has been fantastic working with the Prato community on the Prato Textile Possum Skin Cloak Project," Ms Clarke said.

"Like our Possum Skin Cloak workshops back in my community in the south east of Australia, it is always very rewarding to bring people together to share their skills, knowledge and stories to pass down to the next generation. That's how you keep culture alive."

The artist-in-residency program at the Prato Centre was initiated in 2010 and has previously hosted photomedia artist Jo-Anne Duggan and Chinese painter, Cai Kequn.

Director of the Prato Centre, Professor John Nieuwenhuysen, said the program was designed to facilitate cultural exchanges between the Prato community and Australian or international artists.

"The Prato Textile Possum Skin Cloak Project is a perfect example of the cross-cultural exposure the Monash Prato Centre is trying to achieve with the artist-in-residency program," Professor Nieuwenhuysen said.

Ritual and Ceremony, Ms Clarke's end-of-residency exhibition, will feature the cloak and other works she has produced during her time in Prato. Ms Clarke’s exhibition will run from 24 April to 4 May at the Prato Centre.