31 October 2016


 Muertadella is the title of a small photography project that I am piecing together.

A photo posted by Varia Karipoff (@variakaripoff) on

It will always be that feeling of heading out to Fawkner cemetery with my Baba as a kid to tidy up my grandpa's grave. Invariably it would be 36 degrees Celsius when she'd pile us up into her tinny white Toyota direct from the early 1980s. No power steering, sticky brown vinyl seats. The interior always carried the aroma of the fish component of fish and chips: Baba liked to cook with a lot of vegetable oil.

Despite having the bone density of a canary (osteoporosis is a symptom of all the famines she lived through in northern China), she could somehow manage the heavy steering wheel with her ropey thin arms. Baba's clothes were always billowing on her small frame and colourless. Back then she'd sometimes tie a tiny pony tail in her mass of white hair with black velvet ribbon, her mouth set in a line and that hair, led us to dub her George Washington

Baba would fill up old plastic vinegar bottles with water to tend to the patch of flowers she had growing over Deda's grave. She bucked the trend of the other grave sites in the Orthodox section by not having a slab of granite poured over her husband's resting place. A white cross marked the spot, and instead of putting cut flowers in a vase, she'd plant colourful seasonal flowers, the ones that come in $2 pots and perish a month later. They seemed like a half-hatched plan. Baba watered them with her vinegar bottle pitcher and removed cleavers and other weeds from the muddy plot.

Baba never asked for help with any of this. I suspect we were on security detail after a brutal murder took place here, the day after Halloween, just a few rows away.  It was 1997 when serial killer Peter Dupas stabbed a young Greek woman 87 times as she tended her grandmother's grave. She lay there for four days, face down at her grandmother's feet.

There was not much to do, so I'd look at the crushed and yellowed carnations, the camellias in the mud, the Cyprus trees straddling the perfectly green lawns, the red lampada burning and the carefully selected photos of the deceased and beloved.

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