Return to the Dollhouse

Be sure to grab your copy of the latest Flem Ken News, where Claire Hughes wrote the following wonderful piece about the Return to the Dollhouse Project which is excitedly going to be on display at this weekend’s festival!

Be sure to pop by the Bill Vanina Pavilion this Sunday to see these amazing creations..

In 1983, a group of local women created an extraordinary collection of dolls -each one as unique as its maker. The dolls have been on permanent display at Kensington Neighbourhood House ever since. This year, a new group of women “returned to the doll house” to hand sew a whole new generation of dolls.  Claire Hughes visited the exhibition and provided this review.

It is a beautiful, sunny Melbourne afternoon as I make my way along Racecourse road, as the afternoon rush picks up. Located just a few doors away from the library, I step through the entrance of the Flem-Ken Hub. The room is warm and inviting, there are many pieces that compete for my attention. 

I am immediately drawn to the table tucked toward the back, left corner of the room. I feel as if the dolls are calling out to me and I can’t wait to meet them in person, I so enjoyed reading the stories of their makers in the brochure.

As I approach the table I notice the familiar photos of the makers with their dolls, I love that they are displayed together. I think it is so courageous of the makers to have allowed the community access to their unique creations.

The most striking thing to me is how much more vibrant and truly diverse the dolls are, side by side, with some are much larger or smaller than I imagined they were from the photos. I love how each and every doll has their arms open ready to embrace the viewer. An enormous amount of care and attention has gone to the creation of these pieces that are as unique as their makers.

The details are simply astounding! From embroidered eyes to tiny items of jewellery and the booties that adorn some of the dolls feet. The delicate fabrics that form part of their clothing and the unique expressions on each of their faces, some have little button noses while others carefully crafted features, vibrant hair colours from across the rainbow. Each doll is an invitation to see a visual representation of who someone is, where they came from and what they truly hold dear. I encourage everyone to visit each of the dolls in person and get to know them.

It is hard to believe that 1983 was a quarter of a century ago. After seeing the project, it reminds me how fortunate I am to live in this picturesque suburb, in this wonderful city, surrounded by such a rich cultural mix of people, each with their own unique stories. The truth is that while we should celebrate our differences we often have more in common with one another than we think, we just need to take the time to get to know one another. The Neighbourhood House brings people together, promotes creativity and understanding. What could be more important that?

I wonder what the next generation of dolls will look like? Bring on 2043!


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