Ngioka Bunda-Heath awarded the 2021 Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship and Residency
Dancer, choreographer and storyteller Ngioka Bunda-Heath has been awarded the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship and Residency at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Stories inspired by a return to country will be explored in a new dance film by dancer, choreographer and storyteller Ngioka Bunda-Heath, the recipient of the 2021 Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship.
Established by Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in recognition of Mr Darvell Hutchinson AM, former Chair of the Trust, the fellowship supports the artistic practice of an Indigenous artist based in Victoria. Awarded annually and valued at $45,000, it includes a one-year residency at the University of Melbourne.
Ngioka is Wakka Wakka, Ngugi from Queensland (matrilineal) and Biripi from New South Wales (patrilineal), and a former graduate of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) at the VCA.
An accomplished dancer, Ngioka has performed nationally and internationally with esteemed choreographers Mariaa Randall, Amrita Hepi, Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen. As a choreographer, she is recognised for her masterful use of projection, dance and storytelling in works such Blood Quantum (2019), Birrpai (2020) and Lucha Bridge, Silent Shift (2021).
In addition to the scholarship funds, Ngioka will receive access to world-class facilities at the VCA where she will work closely with staff and students to begin research on a new dance film that will see her return to country after a long absence due to rolling lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions.
This year marks the first occasion in which the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship and Residency has been hosted by Dance at the Victorian College of the Arts. Head of the program, Professor Carol Brown said, “it is an honour to be hosting the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship and Residency this year.”
Ngioka’s recent accolade is “wonderfully timed for VCA Dance,” said Carol as it “builds upon Wiradjuri man, Daniel Riley’s initiative in the Kummarge programme which ensures Indigenous dance creativity can thrive at VCA.”
University of Melbourne Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Community and Cultural Partnerships), Professor Su Baker, who played a key role in bringing the 2021 fellowship to dance said that Ngioka joins a growing list of Indigenous artists who have shared their knowledge, talents and contributions as Hutchinson Fellows at the University of Melbourne.
“I am delighted that this will be the first Dance Fellowship, and I thank Professor Carol Brown for her leadership in this area and the Helen Macpherson Trust for this most generous fellowship program.” Professor Baker said.
Debra Morgan Chief Executive of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust congratulated Ngioka.
“We offer warm congratulations to Ngioka on receiving the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship. Ngioka joins an esteemed group of recipients of the award, and we commend the panel for another inspired selection. We look forward to seeing the opportunities the residency provides over the year to Ngioka, as well as to the staff and students at the University of Melbourne.” said Ms Morgan.
The 2021 selection panel for the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship included Tiriki Onus, Head of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Development; Brooke Andrew, Enterprise Professor, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne; Daniel Riley, Lecturer in Dance; Professor Su Baker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Community and Partnerships at the University of Melbourne; Professor Carol Brown, Head of VCA Dance; Josh Wright, Director of DanceHouse.
About Ngioka Bunda-Heath: Ngioka is Wakka Wakka, Ngugi from Queensland (matrilineal); and Birrpai from New South Wales (patrilineal). She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) at the Victorian College of the Arts and is the first Aboriginal woman to graduate in her field. She has worked for Bangarra Dance Theatre in their “Rekindling” youth education program; and is First Peoples Partnership Coordinator at Chunky Move. Ngioka has performed in several works nationally, working with esteemed choreographers such as Mariaa Randall, Amrita Hepi, Sarah Aiken and Rebecca Jensen. Internationally, she’s participated in dance conferences, festivals and residencies in New Caledonia, France, Canada and the USA. Ngioka’s choreographic work includes Blood Quantum (2019), Birrpai (2020) and Lucha Bridge, Silent Shift (2021).
About the Fellowship: This annual award provides a Victorian Aboriginal emerging artist with financial support to explore ideas and develop skills that will realise new iterations of cultural practice and development and build their practice into the future. It is a major Fellowship established by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in celebration of Mr Darvell Martin Hutchinson AM, the long-serving Chair of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for 50 years.