‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ ceremony
A Roses from the Heart Memorial Event
Artist: Christina Henri
To be held at the Fremantle Prison
World Heritage Site
1 The Terrace, Fremantle WA 6160
Sunday 29 July, 2018
Remembering Australia’s transported women and children
Also launching the related project
Irish Roses – women who migrated to WA on the ‘Bride Ships’.
Thanks to Kate Bousfield, Lyn Francis and Anthea Harris & to all participating bonnet makers and attendees and the Fremantle Prison
Tasmanian artist Christina Henri’s Roses from the Heart Memorial.
An artist’s view focussing on the 25,566 women and their children sentenced to transportation to Australia 1788-1853.
Readers may not be aware that Christina Henri was studying her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at UTAS in 2003 when she undertook a ‘Historical Landscape’ subject. On the last day of this course students were taken to see the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, on the outskirts of Hobart city. Unaware of the site’s existence prior to this visit Christina was astounded to learn of a history that was pivotal to Tasmania/Australia’s successful social and economic growth, a history seemingly shrouded by a veil of amnesia. Convicts transported to become free labour.
Returning to the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site Christina spoke to the then manager about using art to raise the profile of the site/ Australia’s female convicts. From this conversation came the invitation to be the site’s honorary artist-in-residence. Envisioning a three-year stint in this voluntary capacity Christina’s partnership became a 12 year association (2003 until 2015). The artist continues to maintain a relationship with the historic site and is presently a member of the Cascade Community Advisory Committee (CCAC).
Sone of the Roses from the Heart bonnet tributes are on display in the Matron’s Cottage.
On Sunday 14th May 2017 Christina will be engaging with the public in the Matrons Cottage at the
Female Factory as part of site’s Mothers Day Open Day.
Christina’s Roses from the Heart Memorial is an art project that uses bonnet symbolism to connect with the lives of ALL convict women transported to Australia. The pattern of the colonial servant’s bonnet was selected from the costume collection at Narryna Heritage Museum, Hobart.
In 2011 Christina was overjoyed to view a unique image in the Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, depicting convicted women wearing bonnets identical to her choice for the symbolic Roses from the Heart tribute.
Christina particularly wanted a bonnet with a brim allowing for easy display of the name of the woman being remembered, the ship of transport and the year of arrival in Australia. The artist believes it is meaningful to invite people to engage with a convict woman’s life through the stitching and embellishment of a bonnet. To date the artist has received around 25,066 bonnets from across the globe. Some of the bonnets have been created by descendants of convict women.
The artist holds displays, exhibitions and installations and creates performance art such as her ‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ ceremonies. Through talks, school visits and associating with community groups, Christina continually engages with the public across Australia, the UK and Ireland.
Since 2010 Christina has visited Ireland regularly holding events to raise cultural tourism awareness of both country’s shared colonial connections. During her visits to Ireland Christina has noted the attention given to the Great Famine (1845-1851) and subsequent flight/emigration. A period when over a million people died and millions fled the famine. The subject of transportation is less revealed. Until more recently male convicts, most specifically political prisoners, especially the Fenians (Irish Republican Brotherhood fraternal organisations dedicated to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic in the 19th and 20th century) were given more attention. However with historians and authors research and family history interest giving exposure to Irish convict women’s lives interest appears to be awakening.
In 2010 Christina initiated an annual event in Cobh, County Cork that sees a ‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ ceremony held each year. This event coincides with the arrival of a cruise ship from Sydney, berthing at the Cobh wharf on a designated ‘Australia Day’. The ‘Blessing of the Bonnets’ commemoration has become a special part of the festival’s event. The local community and visitors
from the cruise ship take part. Christina choose Cobh for this event because it was one of only two Irish ports selected as the point of departure for convict ships departing Ireland for Australia.
Christina has held events in a number of counties across the island of Ireland visiting schools and engaging with students over the past seven years..
The artist commenced an aerial photographic project in 2015. This artwork involves participants wearing a bonnet and joining hundreds of others in a ‘living art installation’ where en masse all are photographed at a site relevant to the female convict story.
The first of this documentation took place at the Hobart wharf, just a stone’s throw away from where the convict women and their children were off loaded from the ships of transport to Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land.
This event was held on Mothers Day 10 May 2015. The Cascades Female Factory Historic Site and Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) assisted with the organising of this successful event. A number of dignitaries were involved including the Lord Mayor of Hobart, the Hon Sue Hickey and the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Hon Elise Archer, MHA. The previous evening Christina held a dinner at
the Henry Jones Art Hotel that brought
together guests gathering to be part of the
aerial photography event. Attendees travelled
from across Australia and as far afield as the
UK. The Governor of Tasmania, Her
Excellency, Professor the Honourable Kate
Warner AC and her husband Mr Richard
Warner attended. Her Excellency the
Governor of Tasmania was a guest speaker
as was Professor Lucy Frost. MC for the
event was well known Jane Longhurst
event was a successful celebration of convict
women with numerous attendees being direct
descendants of those being remembered.
This year Christina organised similar events in Ireland with the first being held on 03.03.2017. The artist chose to hold the aerial photography event at the Grangegorman Female Depot, Dublin where 3216 women and their 506 children were held prior to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land 1840-1853. Grangegorman, built in 1836 was centred on Quaker Reformer Elizabeth Fry’s social reform principles. Grangegorman was the first exclusively female penitentiary of its kind in the British Isles.
Christina held a further aerial photography event on 8.3.2017 in Northern Ireland at the Down County Museum the site of the heritage Down County Gaol where women and their children were held prior to transportation to Australia.
Both these aerial photography events celebrated International Women’s Day.
Dignitaries including the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, HE Mr Richard Andrews supported Christina’s art events as did the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr and the Chairperson of the Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Gillian Fitzpatrick. The Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and the Grangegorman Development Authority (GDA) along with he Dublin City Council Arts Office all promoted and assisted with the Roses from the Heart memorial project. Publicity of these events saw over eight articles written in newspapers, mainly national newspapers, along with accompanying visuals of bonnets being worn in memory of female convicts.
Australian families whose descendants had been held in Grangegorman attended and took part.
RTE Radio covered the events under their ‘it says in the papers’ news review on 5 March 2017. RTE Nationwide produced a second documentary on Christina’s ‘Roses from the Heart’ work which will be aired to over a million households across Ireland.
Christina continues to be engaged with communities within Australia. Her Roses from the Heart art affords opportunities for cultural tourism, especially between Ireland/Tasmania/Australia. People visit Tasmania with their bonnet tribute to personally present to Christina and to walk in places and connect with spaces where their convict lass spent time.
Pubic engagements include various guest speaker invitations. A major exhibition of thousands of Roses from the Heart bonnets was held at the MADE Museum, Ballarat, Victoria 2016-2017. Christina is one of the guest speakers at the NSW & ACT Association of Family History Societies Conference 2017 in Orange 22-24 September. Coinciding will be a major exhibition of bonnets in the Orange Regional Art Gallery. The artist is in discussions relating to holding a Roses from the Heart event on Norfolk Island in the near future.
Christina will be a guest speaker at the 23rd Australian Trefoil Guild Gathering in Hobart in 2018. Also more Roses from the Heart events are planned for Ireland.
Importantly the artist continues to search for ‘the right site’ to have approximately 12,500 bonnets permanently installed for public access.
The remainder of the bonnets will be installed in various sites across the globe pertinent to the female convict story. The artist intends keeping three or four boats worth of bonnets for circulation in exhibitions and displays as the opportunity/invitations require.
The artist extends a huge thank you to all who support the Roses from the Heart Memorial and to all who have stitched and embellished bonnet tributes. The artist suggests descendants might consider making a second bonnet to treasure within their family as a keepsake.