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The Neva set sail from Cork, Ireland, in January 1835. On board were 150 Irish women convicts, 9 free women, and a total of 55 children, plus 26 crew.
The Neva was wrecked off Cape Wickham, King Island, on 13 May 1835. None of the mothers or children survived. Twelve women made it to shore alive, but only six survived past the first night. Nine crew members survived.
Neva Reliquary is my personal response to this tragedy.
The work was initiated during a residency at the King Island Cultural Centre in 2011, when I first started experimenting with making paper from the local kelp and subsequently other seaweeds. I became increasingly drawn to the Neva story, feeling a connection with these women, particularly as many of them were mothers, like me, and moreover 28 of them shared my name, Catherine.
I have developed and refined my papermaking techniques during the past five years to create these garments for selected Neva passengers. They are all made from seaweeds gathered from the Cape Wickham area. I have made a small size garment to represent each of the 28 Catherines, and life size garments for each of the Catherines who were children. I have also made a cloak for the youngest convict, Ester Raw, who was only 14. She had been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a cloak.
The six surviving women each have a Survivorís Cape, which incorporate some shore plants as well as seaweeds.
© Catherine Stringer