Bernard Appassamy



The Twelve Napkins

Shortlisted for the 2024 Mandorla Art Award & Awarded the Highly Commended Catholic Archdiocese Prize

My mother Jacqueline was a committed Catholic living in Mauritius. In 1990, she gifted me twelve napkins that she had embroidered with flowers for me.

Our relationship was subsequently rocked when I came out as a gay man. It took painful years to find a space, like the mandorla, where our worlds could overlap. Until she died, we manoeuvred tension and topics that remained unspoken as well as renewed joy and laughter.

As a meditation on my mother’s legacy, I embroidered excerpts from her favourite handwritten recipes, on the twelve napkins, with the same brand of DMC embroidery thread that she had used. The napkins are folded like a bishop’s mitre to reference my mother's former dinner party table settings and the Church.

In the quietude of embroidering, my mother and I host a feast.

Comment from the judges
This is a quiet work that invites the viewer into an intimate and vulnerable space in which family​ and faith are intertwined and handed down across generations. The napkin is a familiar object​ that evokes the home, family gatherings and keepsakes. Folded into the shape of a bishop’s​ mitre, each napkin holds the hand of both the artist and his mother, forever connected by love.

Approx L 80 cm X W 35 cm X H 15 cm

Linen and cotton

Felicity Jenkins

- Michael Mullins and The Sydney BAG (Book Art Group), especially Lisa Giles who said to me, 'Why don't you make your own mark on the napkins?', Avril Makula and Mandy Burgess
- Also Louise Haigh and Anna Senior