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Arts stories

Irish exiles cast in bronze

Four bronze sculptures of transported Irish convict women and their children were installed on Hobart’s waterfront in October. Created by noted Irish sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, they were officially unveiled by the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, during a ceremony near the MACq01 hotel on Macquarie Wharf. Mr Gillespie had used the living descendants of women and children transported to the Van Diemen’s Land penal colony in the early 1800s as models for the installation, titled Footsteps Towards Freedom. He worked in isolation in his Dublin foundry for many weeks using photographs and 3-D scans to help craft the likenesses. “It kind of seemed a bit wrong to sculpt just any old face on to these girls,” he said. From 1803 to 1853, almost 13,000 convict women and 2,000 children were disembarked on Hobart’s waterfront and housed initially at South Hobart’s Female factory. Mr Higgins told a crowd of about 1,000 that the women deserved admiration. “The crimes for which they were transported were often petty crimes, it would seem now — the theft of food or a few coins, a watch or shawl stolen to try to sustain a starving family — desperate acts of destitute individuals.”

6 November 2017, Edition 189

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