PODCAST: Ashley talks with art dealer William Mora

As Mirka Mora ’s unique art is celebrated with a special exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne, her son William tells Ashley what it was like to live with his free-spirited mother and the art that sprung from her remarkable life

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THE FIRST DISTINGUISHING FEATURE about the Mora family and in particular, Georges and Mirka, was that unlike so many of the Jews who arrived in Melbourne in the aftermath of the Second World War, they eschewed the fashion (“schmatte”) industry, opting instead for hospitality and art.

Generations of Victorians are thankful for that because the Mora family, and especially Mirka, became one of the state’s most iconic families.

Mirka’s work is being celebrated with a special exhibition at the Jewish Museum of Australia that runs through until December 19. So much of her art has been exhibited elsewhere over the years, but as her son William Mora explained to Ashley Browne on the latest Lap of Caulfield Park podcast, this is an exhibition unlike any other.

“This exhibition unlike most others museum exhibitions actually tells her life story as well as her art. It’s the first time we have shown a lot of personal staff, her diaries and that sort of stuff and the memorabilia you don’t normally see in a museum show. It’s captivating people.”

William said his mother successfully juggled her “incredible lust for life” while dealing with the trauma of the Holocaust, having evaded deportation and arrest while still a teenager.

“My take on it was that her way of dealing with that terrible experience that she survived at the age of 13, was to create this wonderful, mythical word of hope, resilience and faith through her art. She inhabited that world and she refused to see the bad in things. She only saw the good.”

“She embraced Melbourne and Australia because it was so far away from Europe. She never forgave the French because it was a French policeman who came and arrested the family and she never really wanted to go back. She made Australia her home and she loved it here.”

It did take a bit of time. Melbourne in 1951 was cold, conservative, overtly British and grey in outlook. “She said it was totally desolate and my father said you couldn’t get coffee,” William said. But meeting and then falling in with Melbourne art scene changed their lives and an entire city would be forever grateful.

The podcast also touches on Georges Mora, whose relationship with Mirka was tempestuous and ultimately ended in divorce. He was the first to bring the European dining experience to Melbourne and both Café Balzac and Tolarno’s became iconic dining experiences in the city.

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