This is a project by Christina Henri which was featured at the recent Festival of Quilts. Christina is aiming to make a bonnet for every woman convict transported to Australia from Britain and Ireland between 1788 and 1853. The following information is from her website and explains the project.
Christina Henri’s Roses from the Heart(tm) installation examines the exploitation of mainly white ‘slaves’ – convict women – and considers the contemporary exploitation of humans, especially female workers, via sweat shops in the manufacturing industry.
The artist conceived the cloth bonnet symbol as a signifier of the convict women’s worth – their economic value to Australia’s prosperity. Contemporary industry now often chooses to remain competitive through the use of ‘sweat shop labour’. The artist raises the notion of exploitation and poses the question has society learnt from past mistakes.
Christina invites people throughout the world to make a bonnet tribute to commemorate the value of a convict woman’s life. The artist deliberately chose to invite personal tributes to be made rather than mass orders so that each bonnet is a testament to the individuality of the lass for whom it is created.
The artist chose to use a servant’s bonnet for the template bonnet as many convict women were assigned to work amongst the community in private residences as domestic help. The choice of white or cream cloth is also important. From a distance the bonnet Memorial will give the impression that all the bonnets are identical. On closer inspection every bonnet will be different. Continued research identifies that the convict women were far more than a bunch of ‘damned whores’ as they were so often referred to.
Some of the bonnets were on display at the Festival of Quilts as an installation entitled the ‘Sea of Bonnets’. Christina herself was there and my mum spoke with her as she, my aunt and gran have all contributed bonnets to her project. They made them for women with the same surnames as appear in our family tree – they are unlikely to be related to us because of the parts of the country they came from, but it makes it more personal and these women are remembered when they otherwise wouldn’t have been.
Each bonnet bears has the name of a convict, many of the bonnets have also been embroidered and embelished.
If anyone is interested in making a bonnet the pattern can be downloaded from the website and you can contact Christina for the name of a woman for your bonnet to represent.