May 8th, 2020 by

The Hat Project – Penrith Regional Gallery

These hats  were made as part of an Aboriginal community project called the Hat Project developed in partnership with Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of the Lewers Bequest, Penrith City Council and supported by Penrith Panthers.

Aboriginal artists, Elders and participants came together in a series of workshops to learn new skills and talk about the past and how it has shaped their identities. Guided by milliner Catherine Kelly, the women created individually designed hats as unique sculptural forms of self-expression that reflect their personalities and unique stories. Through the choice of colour, style and trim each woman transformed their own personal and family story into a uniquely designed hat that is both an expression of their individual voice and a reflection on history.

The Hat Project began with exploring a particular time in Australia’s history when Sunday was sacred, and when people dressed in their best clothes for church, for family gatherings, picnic and race days. The Christian church and its historical association with mission communities has left a mixed legacy for many Aboriginal people. Remembered is both the joy of community, family and shared faith, but also the loss of traditional practices and paternalistic control. Aboriginal domestic servant often became very skilled at dressmaking and hat making.

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