Mark Cleaver on creating Indigenous artwork ‘Luwaytini’

Mark Cleaver on creating Indigenous artwork ‘Luwaytini’

If you’ve ever used the RMIT website, chances are you’ve seen Mark Cleaver’s Indigenous artwork. We spoke with Mark to learn more about its meaning and the beautiful message they want to share with their fellow students.

Student Mark Cleave looking towards camera wearing black hat and long black coat with silver sequins RMIT Student Mark Cleaver

Where are you from and what are you studying at RMIT?  

I am from the Mornington Peninsula, but my mob are from Tasmania so we are Palawa people. We are descendants of the Pinterrairer and the Paperloihonor people from Musselroe in Northern Tasmania. 

I am currently studying my Master's Degree in Human Resources. I chose it because I finished my post grad in business last year and I wanted to go on an do an MBA. I am loving it so far, and I’m lucky enough to already work in a HR unit so a lot of the work was familiar to me. My hope is to finish my master's and go on to my PhD in social justice, either Indigenous social justice, LGBTQI+ or both and go into intersectionality.

What was your inspiration to create ‘Luwaytini’ and what does it mean to you?  

This artwork is called "Luwaytini", which is Palawa Kani for Milky Way. It represents the connection to something greater. Even though we may occasionally feel outcast or forgotten, we are made up of the same energy and that we all belong. 

This represents that the uniqueness of everyone is what makes them special, and it is that light we should shine to the world, rather than feeling the darkness and hiding from it.

Could you tell us more about your process when you’re creating your art? What inspires you? What challenges you?

I did use paints and paint brushes as a medium prior to getting diagnosed with MS. With my MS I’ve got parathesis in both hands, which means that I've got no feeling at all, so holding paint brushes and pens is really difficult. I moved over to a digital medium which was fantastic, because I had kind of given art up for a couple of years while I was dealing with my diagnosis. 

Generally what my process is, I’ll have an idea click into my head and I’ll write it down. [When thinking about creating ‘Luwaytini’] I had had a bit of a rough week, and I just thought when we all feel a bit different, or when we feel like a bit of an outcast the first thing that we always do is look up into the sky and we star gaze or look at the sunset set.  

Indigenous artwork Luwaytini - Mark Cleave - thumbnail Mark Cleaver's artwork, 'Luwaytini'.

What would you like say to your fellow First Nations students?  

The biggest message that I want to put out to First Nations students is that they’re all very capable of achieving their goals and their dreams. Coming from adversity and minority backgrounds I think we’re kind of put into a bit of a box, and we hear about unconscious bias especially in regards to racial slurs daily.

When reading a post on Facebook about NAIDOC Week or Reconciliation Week, you go into the comments and read these awful things that other people are saying and then those people are not realising that this trauma stems back hundreds of years. It’s something that we still carry with us, either from our parents or from our [extended] family.

I want to let other students know that it’s ok to feel that way, but also that feeling can be used as power to keep driving you forward. Don’t let people stop you, it doesn’t matter if you're the first in your family to become a university student, I was the first in my family! 

To students and people that aren’t form diverse backgrounds, look at your unconscious bias, because I think that we all have some aspect of it. And [remember to] advocate and be an ally as well.  

Do you have any advice for future RMIT students?  

The biggest piece of advice I have is just jump in and do it! There was a lot of self-doubt when I started. Don't worry about if you don’t think you don’t have the skills for it. One thing I’ve found with RMIT going to a Master's program is that there is a lot of support, and I suppose I didn’t really have anyone to tell me that when I was entering university.

Don’t worry about it if you fail, celebrate your successes and celebrate your failures! It’s just life – just keep going for it. We’re just as worthy as everyone else.  

Story: Ellen Singleton

24 May 2022


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.