Award-winning writers and artists tackling challenging social issues; composers creating soaring operas; dancers working with the community – the University of Otago's 2021 Arts Fellows continue a strong tradition of celebrating diversity and making culture accessible to many.
Division of Humanities Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Tony Ballantyne says the 2021 recipients were chosen from a competitive field of applicants because their projects are important for the arts and will add to discussion on a range of issues.
“Their creative work enriches the arts and culture at a local and national level, and their presence in our community opens up new possibilities for public engagement.
“As an institution we have the dual responsibilities of furthering creative traditions and providing a platform to explore pressing social issues. I know the Fellows' work in 2021 will do that and more,” Professor Ballantyne says.
Next year the Robert Burns Fellow is Becky Manawatu; the Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance is Lucy Marinkovich; Heather McQuillan is the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence – 2020 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Bridget Reweti and 2020 Mozart Fellow Kenneth Young have both received Fellowships for a second year.
The Fellows receive a stipend for between six months and one year, and space at Otago's Dunedin campus to pursue their creative projects. Past Fellows have created dance performances featuring local community members, orchestral compositions, poetry, novels and children's books during their tenure.
Becky Manawatu, the 2021 Robert Burns Fellow, tackles gritty social issues with an authentic voice.
Manawatu's first novel, Auē, won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for fiction and the Hubert Church Prize for best first book of fiction at the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Auē has been compared to Keri Hulme's Booker Award-winning The Bone People. NZ Herald reviewer Kiran Dass described it as “social realist” New Zealand fiction that deals with themes of domestic violence, gang culture, grief and fractured families, but also “a beautifully pitched and nuanced hopeful story about the power of love, friendship and family.”
Manuwatu says the Fellowship will lead to both personal and professional growth.
“I can't believe it – from little Waimangaroa Primary School, writing fairy tales and ghost stories to this. It is a dream come true and I want to use the time to learn, grow and develop some intelligence and understanding. I want to connect with my whakapapa; my marae are all in Southland – including Murihiku.
“I feel very humbled to be among such an amazing list of New Zealand writers. Plus, it feels like a great adventure, and I know my writing will benefit from an adventure.”
Central to her writing is a narrative voice, which she describes as “soothing”.
“I like arcs. I like light and dark, good versus evil. And I like plot.
“I like reading more subtle, nuanced work too – but I am attracted to writing that's a bit saga-ish. Romance, murder, lust, heroism – all the wildness and danger most of us do not wrestle with on a usual day, I let my imagination take me there. Mittyesque, I suppose, puerile even, but I can't stop myself once I start. I am a story addict.”
Although her work has been described as 'social reality', Manuwatu says it is instead based on “nuggets of social reality [that are used] to make the reader believe they're being told the truth”.
During the Fellowship tenure Manuwatu will work on Papahaua, a loose sequel to Auē.
“There are some characters there I must try and do right by. Plus, I miss them.”
She also hopes to study te reo Māori while in Otago.
Manawatu lives in Waimangaroa and is a reporter at the Westport News.
Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance recipient Lucy Marinkovich is an experienced practitioner who values community engagement.
Marinkovich is an artist, choreographer, educator, practitioner and performer who has worked with young people and those with disabilities, as well as with professional dancers.
Through her proposed project InMotion: Dancing with Parkinson's, Marinkovich will deliver dance classes to people living with Parkinson's disease.
“I am endlessly fascinated by dance and the body, and through the Fellowship my experience and knowledge of dance has the possibility to support the Parkinson's community and help individuals to feel confident and positive about their bodies,” she says.
As a performer, Lucy has worked with New Zealand's elite contemporary dance companies such as Footnote Dance Company, New Zealand Dance Company, Movement of the Human and Taki Rua Productions.
Her choreographic work, notably the dance-theatre productions she has created with her company Borderline Arts Ensemble, investigates the realm of the subconscious, positioning the performer as an intermediary between dreams and reality.
Borderline's surrealist-inspired Lobsters won three Wellington Theatre Awards, and Strasbourg 1518, their latest commission which premiered in the 2020 New Zealand Festival, explored the true story of a dance epidemic from the Middle Ages.
Marinkovich says she was delighted and overwhelmed on receiving news of the Fellowship.
“I am also very grateful to be selected for this unique opportunity to live and work in the Ōtepoti community.
“I believe that arts and culture are vital components of a healthy society and that as individuals we have a social responsibility to care for our fellow community members.
“Dancing enables people with Parkinson's to redefine their body's relationship to movement while giving them the opportunity to express themselves creatively and recapture a sense of grace in their movements.
“While we can't solve Parkinson's through dance, I can share my love for dance with people who can benefit from experiencing the joy of movement. I have a sincere passion for community arts and am proud to be able to actively contribute to the cultural and social development of local New Zealand communities through this Fellowship.”
Marinkovich has held a number of choreographic residencies and performances, and in 2018 was awarded the Harriet Friedlander New York Residency from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.
The 2009 New Zealand School of Dance graduate has worked with the Royal New Zealand Ballet as their Dance Educator since 2018, implementing the company's education and community events.
Marinkovich has taught at primary, intermediate and secondary schools throughout Aotearoa, delivering creative dance, ballet and NCEA workshops alongside community events such as the Audio Described Performances and Touch Tours for blind and vision impaired patrons. She has also held family workshops at Te Papa and Auckland Live.
Children's writer Heather McQuillan is the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence Fellow for 2021.
McQuillan has received numerous awards, including Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005, and Storylines Notable Book Awards in 2007, 2012 and 2020. Her work was also shortlisted for the Tessa Duder Award for her novel manuscript 2018.
McQuillan says selection for the Fellowship is “an incredible boost.”
“It means that I will have the time, the encouragement and the infrastructure all around me to support the act of writing. At the moment my writing comes in fits and bursts in between all of my other commitments. I look forward to being able to spend extended and concentrated time on both writing and research, and to get to know the writing community in Dunedin.
“I am very grateful to the University of Otago and the Robert Lord Trust for this personal opportunity and for the gravity the Fellowship and Residency give to writing for children.”
Her experiences teaching 10 to 13-year-olds has provided the motivation to cover issues relevant to the age group, and her proposed Fellowship work is a story about “growing up, tricky friendships, ethical dilemmas, and confusing love.”
“At that age, young people are transforming physically, cognitively and ethically. They start to see well beyond themselves and their families and begin the search for where and how they will fit in this, now, much wider world. Self and social identity become key drivers in the choices they make. I've always found this age group particularly fascinating with their fresh perspectives and challenging questions. I also remember my intermediate school years with greater clarity than the years on either side.”
While describing these challenging dilemmas around friendship and ethics, she hopes to strike a balance between humour and emotional content.
A prolific writer, McQuillan has published in New Zealand with Scholastic NZ, The Cuba Press, Canterbury University Press, NZ Poetry Society, and Otago University Press, in the US with Raven Chronicles Press and Best Small Fictions ( Sonder Press and Braddock Books) , and the UK with Reflex Press. Her work in 2019/2020, Avis and the call of the Kraken is currently under manuscript review.
McQuillan lives in Christchurch, where she is the director at Write On School for Young Writers, and will take up the residency in the Robert Lord Cottage in North Dunedin.
The 2020 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship recipient Bridget Reweti will return in 2021 to continue projects on history and whenua.
Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui; Ngāi Te Rangi) says continuing the Fellowship next year will allow her to expand her research into indigenous engagement with the land and continue projects that are “steeped in the worlds of history and whenua.”
Her work includes photography and moving images and embraces early media – such as the camera obscura – while also utilising contemporary technologies. Previous projects have focused on customary Māori narratives, names, or fibre and stitching techniques, in conjunction with contemporary communications media.
In addition to working collaboratively with the members of Mata Aho Collective, and until recently as co-chair of the Enjoy Contemporary Art Space Trust, Reweti co-edits the annual peer-reviewed ATE Journal of Māori.
Reweti has had residencies in Singapore, Indonesia and Canada, and throughout Aotearoa, and as the Caselberg Artist in Residence in Broad Bay.
“I have a particular interest in leaning into the complexity of making work in landscapes that I do not whakapapa to, unpacking my position as a manuhiri and resisting developing works that rely on romantic notion of the landscape.
“Having the Fellowship for another year will definitely allow for my work to develop even further. I feel fortunate to follow in the footsteps of Fiona Pardington, the only other Māori woman artist who has held the position for two years.”
Distinguished composer and musician Kenneth Young, the 2020 Mozart Fellow, will return in 2021.
Kenneth Young has long been recognised as one of New Zealand's most wide-ranging and distinguished musicians. His compositions have been regularly commissioned by such leading New Zealand Arts organisations as the NZSO, the Auckland Philharmonia, Chamber Music NZ, the NZ Trio, Australian professional orchestras and ensembles, and the Jerusalem String Quartet.
The 2020 Auckland Festival, held just before the COVID-19 lockdown, presented the highly successful premiere of his first opera Man, sitting in a Garden, performed by tenor Jared Holt and the Auckland Philharmonia under the baton of conductor Tecwyn Evans.
Young says he was delighted to receive the Fellowship for the second time, because it affords the opportunity “to get on with things without undue preoccupation with other concerns.”
“I have so much I want to do, and it means I can realise the plan for what I want to write during my Fellowship term. I am two thirds the way through writing a chamber opera, which will then be followed by a song cycle and a string quartet. I feel blessed and grateful that I will be able to concentrate my efforts on these projects.”
He is working on another opera for soprano Anna Leese, among a series of works envisaged for completion during his tenure as Mozart Fellow.
Young has received many major New Zealand music awards, both as conductor and producer, and has regularly conducted the leading orchestras of New Zealand and Australia, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Osaka Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Ballet and the West Australian Ballet.
Formerly a principal tuba with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, he has always been very active in promoting brass and contemporary music in New Zealand and abroad. Young has had a long involvement as brass tutor and lecturer at the New Zealand School of Music / Victoria University of Wellington in music, composition, orchestration and conducting.
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About the Fellowships:
The Robert Burns Fellowship is New Zealand's premier literary residency. Established in 1958 to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Burns, it encourages imaginative New Zealand literature and is aimed at bringing writers to the University. Past fellows include Janet Frame, Roger Hall, Keri Hulme, James K. Baxter, Maurice Shadbolt, Michael King, Ian Cross, Owen Marshall, Ruth Dallas, James Norcliffe, David Eggleton, Sarah Quigley and Sue Wootton.
The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship, named after one of New Zealand's most distinguished artists, was established in 1962 to aid and encourage painters, sculptors and other artists and to foster an interest in the arts at the University. Past winners include Ralph Hotere, Grahame Sydney, Marilynn Webb, Fiona Pardington, Shane Cotton and Heather Straka.
The Mozart Fellowship was established by the University of Otago in 1969. The purpose of the Fellowship is to aid and encourage composers and performers of music in the practice and advancement of their art, to associate them with the life of the University and to foster an interest in contemporary music. Mozart Fellows often produce a concert of their works during their Fellowship year. Successful applicants include many of New Zealand's significant composers, such as John Rimmer, Anthony Ritchie, Gillian Whitehead and Christopher Watson.
The Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance was established in 2003 and honours Caroline Plummer (1978-2003). Caroline completed a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a Diploma for Graduates in Dance, and was awarded the University of Otago Prestige Scholarship in Arts. The Fellowship acknowledges Caroline's passion for dance and her vision for community dance in New Zealand. It was made possible by a Memorial Trust set up by Caroline's parents.
The University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence is the only residency for a children's writer in New Zealand. Begun by the Dunedin College of Education in 1992, it allows writers to work full-time in a compatible environment among colleagues who are concerned with the teaching of reading and literature to children. It is jointly funded by the University and Creative New Zealand. The residency is offered in association with the Robert Lord Writers' Cottage Trust, which provides rent-free accommodation to writers in the historic Titan Street cottage bequeathed by the late playwright Robert Lord.
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