Roses from the Heart

Val-Bonnets-compressed.jpgDr Christina Henri is an artist from Tasmania, the island State of Australia. Since 2003 she has been the honorary artist in residence at the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in Hobart. Christina uses art as a tool to give meaning to history.

Her work Roses from the Heart is a Memorial to the 25,566 women sentenced to transportation to Australia as convicts (1788-1853).The artist has chosen a cloth bonnet, taken from an original 1860s servant's bonnet, to symbolise the lives of the convict women whose stories have been shrouded by a veil of amnesia for far too long.

Christina invites anyone interested to take part in Roses from the Heart. Her choice of using a cloth bonnet stems from her interest in textiles and the fact that all women wore bonnets in that era and the majority of convict women dealt with cloth on a daily basis. They spun fibre, wove material and washed and mended clothing. They were seamstresses, dressmakers, embroiderers, lace makers and made quilts. Cloth was an integral part of their lives.

To date 23,000 bonnet tributes have been made by people from all around the world, many of them descendants of convict women.

Christina learnt about female factories and convict women for the first time after a visit to the Cascades Female Factory Historic Site in Hobart in 2003.

In 2009/2010 the stories of Christina's female convict ancestors from England, Ireland and Wales emerged highlighting how so many families 'buried' their convict past.

In 2010 the organisers of the Festival of Quilts invited Roses from the Heart to be the main exhibitor at their festival held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. 8,000 bonnets were displayed and thousands of viewers learnt about convict women and their lives through a powerful installation titled 'Sea of Bonnets' that incorporated the use of bonnets and a wooden boat.

Christina was very fortunate to have the help of Western Australia couple, Robyn and Graham Murray and also a number of local embroiderers and interested supporters including Norma Bean and her partner John from England and Rosalie Hollis (Embroiderers’ Guild member in Jersey) who have continued to support Roses from the Heart.

Christina visited Ireland in 2010 and 2012 holding Roses from the Heart events, captivating audiences with her passion to share the stories of the thousands of women exiled from their homeland, the vast majority of whom were never given the opportunity to return back home.

Jersey Blessing of the Bonnets 2010


This year all the bonnets representing the Irish convict women will travel to Ireland. Christina describes this gesture as 'bringing the girls back home' an especially emotional journey during 2013 when people from around the world are returning home to Ireland as part of 'the Gathering'.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Naoise Ó Muirí, will be hosting an event in support of Roses from the Heart in May at the Mansion House to assist the work of Dr Henri in valuing those who contributed both socially and economically to Australia's growth. These forcibly exiled lasses, some as young as eleven, became the colonial grandmothers of the emerging nation.

Christina's plan is to exhibit the bonnets in Ireland in 2013.

In 2014 these bonnets will be taken to England, along with the remaining bonnets in Australia, where they will be gathered together with the bonnets being stored in England to be featured in a very special 'Blessing of the Bonnets'. Christina invites support from people in England to see that this event is a spectacular ceremony. Anyone who would like to assist Christina is invited to make contact either through the UK Embroiderers Guild or via Christina's contact details (refer below).

Once the 25,566 bonnets are in England Christina's plan is to exhibit the work. Details to be advised when venues dates and times are confirmed.

The long term goal is for the Roses from the Heart memorial to be installed as a permanent public exhibition.


Guild Member, Norma Bean, shares her thoughts and experiences of the ‘Bonnets’ Project to date...

bonnet.jpgThrough my involvement with Christina Henri in Australia whose brain-child the Roses From The Heart – Bonnet Project is, I have followed and shared the lives of women from those early times in History. It is very difficult to get a clear understanding of what it was like to be a convict in early Australia; so many stories that are told of that era highlight the sensational – the horrors of Port Arthur or Norfolk Island, the systematic brutality, the incidents of sadness or cannibalism and so on. It all seems too dark and too horrific to be true. However on the other hand we also hear stories of transportation being an escape for many from the grime and poverty of Britain to the healthy outdoor life and newly found opportunities of the Australian colonies.

bonnet2.jpgIn my experience this project touches your life if you have stitched a bonnet in memory of a female convict on the Database and we have gathered these ladies to us ‘adding life to a life’ - how many lives must we have touched in the time I have been involved -2006 to present day – and ever hopeful that the Target will be reached for the Blessing Ceremony in London when ‘the ladies are brought home’ before being laid to rest in a permanent installation in Hobart. Australia.

Norma Bean Member of Lincolnshire Embroiderers’ Guild

*25,566 is the number on the Database Christina Henri’ is working towards.


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