THOUGH LOOKING FORWARD to living with William and his family, Mirka was anguished about leaving Barkly Street and devoted the epilogue in her memoir to it. ‘I felt like a snake leaving its skin in the summer, like the Christmas beetle gripping still a little longer on the tree bark. It is hard to leave a place at any time of your life; it is your memories entassées [accumulated] that you have to leave behind, but they will attach themselves to you’ (90). She made Richmond her new home until her Alzheimer necessitated her admission to a nursing home nearby to St Kilda, in South Melbourne. She died there at the age of 90 on 27th August 2018. Her death resulted in a huge outpouring of grief from the many whose life she had touch and enriched.
With the Mora family, Serge Thomann was involved in organizing Mirka’s State Memorial at the Palais Theatre on 25th September 2018. It was a grand event, befitting the esteem and love felt for Mirka, with hundreds in attendance and news crews recording the event. Speakers included Premier Daniel Andrews who appropriately commented that Mirka 'drenched our city and our state with colour' Other members of the Mora family talked compellingly about their unique mother including William and Anna, Philippe and Tiriel and granddaughter Lily. Tiriel reflected, ‘I thought she’d live forever’. William pointed out that it was the first time a woman artist had been honoured with a State Memorial. He also recalled Mirka saying, ‘If you want to be an artist, first give birth to your dealer!’ Which, of course, she did. Bernadette Robinson gave a stirring rendition of Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien while Julia Zemiro proved a lively MC.
How fitting that the Palais Theatre in St Kilda was chosen for Mirka’s memorial, a place whose identity she had helped to shape while it, in turn, stimulated and nourished her life and art.
It’s great to have the opportunity to pay tribute to Mirka. And to write this essay.
I think it might be time for a glass of champagne!
See more of the Mirka Mora Project
Chapter 1: From Paris to Melbourne
Chapter 2: Paris End of Collins St - 1950s
Chapter 3: St Kilda, Fitzroy Street (Tolarno) 1966-1970
Chapter 4: St Kilda, Wellington Street 1970-1975
Chapter 5: St Kilda, Barkly Street 1981-1999 and beyond