Meme McDonald was a friend and colleague who I admired deeply. We sadly farewelled her on the weekend, in what could only be described as a moving, uplifting and inspiring final tribute journey that she herself had planned and curated during her final months.
Meme was renowned nationally and internationally for her extraordinary work as an epic outdoor arts director but she is also an acclaimed author who has won many awards as a writer. I found Meme to be an inspiration and the impact she had on me would appear to be a quite common response to her determination and creativity.
Meme was the founder and creative driving force behind the hugely successful Mountain to Mouth (M~M). M~M is Geelong’s biennial extreme arts walk that Meme developed and directed with the Arts & Culture Department of the City of Greater Geelong, Wadawurrung traditional owners, and an outstanding team of artists.
Her passion and vision in community-focused arts projects was infectious. She had a remarkable ability to bring people together from the vast and varied community throughout the Geelong region and convince them to engage in remarkable artistic endeavours.
I recounted a memory of her for an article in the Geelong Advertiser this week:
“I had known Meme socially for many years and had been aware of her trailblazing life in community arts but didn’t work with her until around 2005 when she talked to me about an idea she wanted to take to the Australia Council for the Arts seeking triennial funding. Basically, the concept became Connecting Identities around five communities in regional Australia, including Geelong.
The rare feat of achieving triennial funding from the Australia Council behind her, Meme worked with all five communities to develop their individual stories (song lines).
With her extensive experience, trust and relationship with indigenous communities around Australia over her life’s work, she developed Mouth to Mountain for Geelong.
Launched in 2006, M to M went on to move an urn of seawater from Barwon Heads to the top of the You Yangs.
Thousands of people from all walks of life in the Geelong community were involved in the transportation of the urn — kayakers, horse riders, mothers with prams, cyclists and pedestrians all over a 24-hour period.
I will never forget the beauty of the sun rising over Barwon Heads that morning in May when a solemn procession walked from the Bluff to the Bridge with fires burning on the beach.”
Vale Meme. Your memory and legacy live on.
Highlights of the Mountain to Mouth 2016 event