Mandy Nicholson’s Possum Skin Cloak

Old Quad

The University is honoured to have received this Possum Skin Cloak from Wurundjeri-willam artist Mandy Nicholson. The cloak is worn to respect and celebrate First Nations peoples during major University events. The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation are the Traditional Custodians of the lands of the University’s Parkville campus. What does this land represent to you today?

‘The University of Melbourne asked me to create a cloak with traditional Wurundjeri designs, and which also reflected a student’s life at University. The use of traditional Wurundjeri symbology is respecting the fact that Parkville is on Wurundjeri Country and as a sign of respect to my ancestors. The swirl throughout the design depicts two things. Firstly, it represents the smoke of a welcoming fire (by way of a traditional Wurundjeri Welcoming Ceremony). This welcomes all students, from local areas and from all over the world.

Secondly, the smoke swirls depict the learning and personal journeys of students and the connections that they make personally and professionally while at University. This can be on a small scale (the University/ Parkville) and on a larger scale where, once they have completed their courses, they share this knowledge with their own and the wider community. This is shown in the design by the swirls that go in all directions, but at the same time never swaying too far away from their main goal of attaining a degree.

The lines within the swirls show on more of a macro scale the obstacles that may present themselves throughout study life. These smaller, wavy lines all remain connected to the support structure of friendships and the University itself.

Between official engagements, Mandy Nicholson’s Possum Skin Cloak is on permanent display at Old Quad.

Mandy Nicholson
born Healesville, Victoria 1975
lives and works in Melbourne

Possum Skin Cloak 2012
possum pelts, nylon wax string, woodburnt design
Commissioned by Melbourne Medical School in its 150th Anniversary year
University of Melbourne Collection
Photography by Peter Casamento