Seaweed from 1835 convict shipwreck site transformed to remember lives lost

[Australia] Seaweed collected from the site of one of Australia’s worst shipwrecks has been transformed into art honouring the lives lost.

Hobart-based psychiatrist Catherine Stringer has spent the past five years working on the exhibition Neva Reliquary.

Psychiatrist Catherine Stringer wanted to commemorate the convict lives lost in 1835.
Psychiatrist Catherine Stringer wanted to commemorate the convict lives lost in 1835.

It is a collection of 42 framed garments, mostly dresses, all crafted from delicate paper Stringer handmade from seaweed.

The algae was collected from Cape Wickham on King Island, where convict ship the Neva was wrecked in 1835 while en route from Ireland to Sydney.

Six-year-old Catherine Brooks was one 28 women and girls called Catherine on the Neva.
Six-year-old Catherine Brooks was one 28 women and girls called Catherine on the Neva.

A total of 224 people, mainly women and children, died in the wreck.

Neva Reliquary is Stringer’s personal response to the tragedy. She first found out about the shipwreck on a trip to King Island seven years ago.

“I’d been out snorkelling and when I got back to the car I found I had parked next to a gravestone,” Stringer said.

Gown for baby Catherine Reilly from the Neva.
Gown for baby Catherine Reilly from the Neva.

“They had found seven skeletons in bushland in the area and they were buried there … that surprised me because I had never heard of it.”

She went on to research the shipwreck and came across a passenger list.

Catherine stringer's outfits were made by boiling seaweed into a pulp.
Catherine stringer’s outfits were made by boiling seaweed into a pulp.

“I felt I needed to so something for those poor women who had had a pretty rotten life … most of them were not criminals, just poor people who had stolen some food or a cape in one case.

“On the list I came across all these Catherines – there were 28 of them and it just hit home.”

Stringer collected seaweed during subsequent trips to King Island and decided to try and make paper from it.

Six capes at the exhibition commemorate survivors from the wreck.
Six capes at the exhibition commemorate survivors from the wreck.

“I would bring back a bag of seaweed in my luggage with the cheese and hope no one smelt it,” she said.

“You cook it with caustic soda and make a pulp … I use the camping stove outside at home as some brews can be more potent than others.”

“Each dress has about six to eight batches of pulp, it takes one day to make an individual batch of pulp.”

Masks made from seaweed are based on the faces of herself and her three daughters. They represent the Neva mothers and children lost at sea.

The exhibition opened at the Moonah Art Centre last week.

“The idea of dresses out of seaweed doesn’t sound that nice but people have been really surprised with how it (the exhibition) has come up and they have been touched by the story (of the Neva),” Stringer said.

 

View original article at: Seaweed from 1835 convict shipwreck site transformed to remember lives lost

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