I 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.