Building an understanding of Grief from an Indigenous Cultural Perspective with Maree Clarke

In this workshop internationally renowned artist, Maree Clarke, will speak about mourning practices of South Eastern Australia. In particular, she will focus on the practice of wearing Kopi mourning caps.

Participants will first listen to a talk and then be guided through a process of experiencing clay headwear (Kopi) to support a deepened understanding of Aboriginal culture and the connections between arts and emotional well-being. The workshop will address ‘Sorry Business’, with the greatest respect.

The Kopi mourning cap represents loss, sorrow and grief. Aboriginal women would cut off their hair, weave a net of emu sinew and place the sinew on their head. They’d then cover it with several layers of gypsum, a white river clay, forming the Kopi. These Kopi could weigh up to 7kg and were a signifier of the wearer being in a state of grief. There is documentation of men also wearing the Kopi mourning cap. Women wore the Kopi from two weeks to six months depending on their relationship to the deceased. At the end of their mourning period the Kopi was taken off and placed on the grave of their deceased loved one.

In this workshop the wearing of the Kopi will be done with respect and reverence for the revitalisation of this mourning practice, within a contemporary context. Men and women are encouraged to attend.


Maree Clarke is a well-respected figure of the south-eastern Australian Aboriginal community for not only her inspirational work supporting Aboriginal artists but also for her own successful career as a visual artist. In her practice she works to revive elements of Aboriginal culture that were lost in the period of colonisation and use art as a tool to heal some of our country’s deepest wounds.