A new book on the glory box tradition of Melbourne's Coptic women explores the importance of tradition in migrant communities and of craft to bring women together.
Victoria University researchers Professor Marty Grace and Dr Enza Gandolfo worked with a group of Coptic Christian women from Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese backgrounds living in St. Albans, as part of a joint community arts project initiated by the women's group and Brimbank City Council.
Professor Grace said the passing down of glory boxes – containing household linen, sheets, embroidery or crockery to young women in anticipation of marriage – had disappeared from much of Australia by the 1970s. But the Coptic community, which had managed to maintain the tradition, now also feared younger generations would let it pass.
Professor Grace said it was important to understand the love and care invested in these traditions to appreciate what was lost with their passing, or even to renew interest in maintaining them.
"What became clear during the project was that it's not the glory box as a material artefact they're afraid of losing but what it symbolises: the love and care passed on from mothers to daughters and the cultural continuity associated with it," Professor Grace said.
She said the tradition symbolised cultural continuity for these women during the process of embracing a new land as well as an important way of bringing women of different generations together.
The research has led to a book Love and Care: the glory box tradition of Coptic women in Australia, launched today alongside an exhibition of the same title at the Hunt Club Community Arts Centre in Deer Park.
The exhibition includes contemporary textile works produced by the women throughout the project, historical handmade textiles and stories of their significance to the women, as well as a series of contemporary artworks produced by the project artist, Tamara Marwood in response to the project. The exhibition runs until April 5.
Love and Care is supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria and the Community Support Fund.
The project, received funding and in-kind support from Brimbank City Council and Victoria University.
Book sold at the exhibition, selected bookstores or through Professor Marty Grace.
Available for interview:
Professor Marty Grace, researcher
School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Victoria University
(03) 9919 5022; 0404 835 614; [email protected]
Dr Enza Gandolfo, researcher
School of Communication & the Arts, Victoria University
(03) 9919 2611; 0403 292 552; [email protected]
Madonna Awad, coordinator
Coptic Women's Association
0433 661 648; [email protected]
Jo Ely, exhibition curator
Brimbank City Council
(03) 9249 4600; [email protected]