Saturday, August 28, 2010
Cascades Female Factory 1828 - 1904
Convict bonnets become Roses of the Heart
Thousands of replica female convict bonnets being made across the country and beyond, will become a powerful visual symbol of reconciliation with Australia's convict origins.
I (Christina Henri)was searching for a way to communicate the grief experienced by convict women at their unjust treatment. I spent months experimenting with a variety of art investigations at the Female Factory Historic Site in South Hobart, Tasmania.
One day I was away from the Site at another historic establishment, Narryna Heritage Museum in Battery Point, and I stumbled across a large number of white boxes containing baby’s christening bonnets. I reflected on how colonial mothers in all levels of society had suffered from the loss of their young. For the upper classes though they had ways of dealing with their grief and building monuments to pay tribute to their loved ones. Convict women, on the other hand, were afforded no such avenues and given no consideration during their time of anguish.
It was then the idea came to me to create an installation incorporating images of the beautiful christening bonnets arranged in such a way as to be a moving evocative memorial.
900 silk-screen images taken from photographs of the christening bonnets placed individually on A4 acetate sheets that hung in nine rows of one hundred images suspended from the ceiling by slender wooden bows.
From this concept followed ‘Departures and Arrivals’ (Tasmanian Bicentenary Project) an installation of cloth christening bonnets installed in the shape of a cross. I felt involving the community in the making of the bonnets added a layer of meaning to the artwork. The empathy of the bonnet makers added to the powerfully visual impact the rows of baby’s bonnets had on the viewer. Departures and Arrivals has been installed both indoors as well as outdoors.
They suffered very much at the hands of their captors and many were raped and had babies whilst incarcerated, the babies had to live in another room.. it is thought that the babies were probably not clothed or taken care of properly, for at least 1,100 babies died…the women were also punished for falling pregnant….
The concept came to artist Christina Henri, after she discovered some babies christening bonnets in white boxes at a Museum from the time… people from all over the world are ordering the bonnet pattern and making a bonnet……to be a part of the Roses from the Heart installation
Roses from the Heart ~~~
Gather them roses of yellow and red
Call out their names to start
and send them a rose from the heart
Gather their bonnets to wear on their heads
and send them a rose from the heart
A lot of the women who have sewn the bonnets, found a real connection with the life of a particular female convict, they went on to research about her and share the information with friends and family and they then embroidered her name and flowers onto the bonnet….as a sign of respect
On the show they had a ceremony in a church with a big old row boat up the front and all the ladies wore the bonnets as a sign of respect…then went forward in a beautiful procession, removing the bonnet and placing it in the boat….oh how beautiful…to honour these poor women…who had probably stolen just a morsel of bread to save themselves and loved ones from starvation, but sadly, such a small thing was considered a serious crime back then excerpt
Sew a bonnet and be part of history. 25,266 bonnets made with empathy for convict woman who endured much received so little recognition. Their economic and social contribution was enormous, yet the ‘stigma’ shrouding their existence always precluded discussion of their value.
Just a few comments ...
That is so beauitful, thanking you for sharing. I am not one descended from a convict but my heart goes out to them. ...........Sandy
.Karin Taylor replied
thank you sandy, i am uncertain whether we are descendants or not of a female convict, but we think we have a male convict…and perhaps a female aboriginal ancestor … as many in our family have brown eyes and some features that make us wonder :) x my heart goes out to them also :)
Well my mom wore a bonnet to work in the field and my father was a convict but we are not from down under so I guess I am still not qualified. } :>)
. WhiteDove Stud...
Thanks for sharing Karin, my hubby is descended from both male & female convicts (who married). What a powerful part of history you have shared here and what a beautiful, poignant concept/tribute to these women. If I had any sewing skills I would – sadly I have none lol.
. Trish Woodford
PS – we have the old trial transcripts and he was sent out to Australia for stealing a hankerchief and she for stealing a dress. Sad but true, all they would have endured for that!)
. bev langby
Thank you for sharing this interesting story. I’m not Australian but my heart bleedes for those women…
. Mui-Ling Teh
Thank you for sharing Karin-sama!!
Amazing story of the artist and Australian history.
. catherine walker
There's nothing I can add to this story, except please go visit this historic site when you ever in Tasmania, it left me a little angry to think women could be treated this way, no matter who they were. It is a very sad place.