Arts fellows ‘excited’ to start work in Dunedin

Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance fellow Michael Parmenter leads a dance.  PHOTOS:...
Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance fellow Michael Parmenter leads a dance. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
The newest crop of University of Otago Arts Fellows will work on projects covering everything from religion to a folk ball.

The university has announced its 2022 fellows, who will receive a stipend for between six months and one year and space at the Dunedin campus to pursue their creative projects.

Division of Humanities pro-vice-chancellor Prof Jessica Palmer said applicants were chosen from a highly competitive field because their projects would enrich art and culture locally and nationally.

Robert Burns fellow Albert Belz. Photos: supplied
Robert Burns fellow Albert Belz. Photos: supplied
‘‘Through these fellowships, Otago has the privilege of supporting artists to explore pressing social issues and to create expressions of cultural value and importance. I know we will benefit from their presence in our community, as will the wider public,’’ she said.

The Robert Burns Fellow is actor, screenwriter, and award-winning playwright Albert Belz (Ngati Porou, Nga Puhi and Ngati Pokai).

Mr Belz has acted in numerous productions in Aotearoa and Australia and appeared in television shows such as Hercules, Rip Girls and Shortland Street.

While he still ‘‘enjoys the opportunity to tread the boards’’, he now focuses more on writing for theatre.

During the fellowship he will work on two projects examining themes including religion, the cult of personality, identity and sovereignty.

His latest play, Astroman, has been produced by the Melbourne Theatre Company, Court Theatre and the Auckland Theatre Company.

He was also creator and head writer on the Maori comedy series Tongue Tied, which screened on Maori Television in 2018.

Mozart fellow Sean Donnelly
Mozart fellow Sean Donnelly
Award-winning songwriter, contemporary composer and studio producer Sean Donnelly is the Mozart Fellow.

Under the stage name SJD, he has released eight albums.

He has composed soundtracks for many of New Zealand’s leading film and television productions, producing traditional and experimental acoustic work, and since the 1990s has frequently performed live.

His new, full-length album, entitled Sweetheart, is due for release in October.

During the fellowship, Mr Donnelly hoped to explore and subvert ‘‘some of the cheesier areas of popular music’’, including concept albums, rock operas, and ‘‘big dumb pop songs’’.

He was ‘‘absolutely over the moon, humbled and blown away in equal measure’’ when he learned he had received the Mozart Fellowship.

Eminent choreographer, dance practitioner and educator Michael Parmenter MNZM has received the Caroline Plummer Fellowship in Community Dance.

Mr Parmenter studied dance in New York in the 1980s before forming the dance company Commotion in 1990, performing notable works including the dance opera Jerusalem.

His recent work includes dance opera OrphEus, which premiered at the 2018 Auckland Arts Festival, and he has taught at the New Zealand School of Dance and UNITEC.

His project will involve directing weekly community classes and workshop events and staging a public folk ball.

‘‘I also intend to undertake a personal research project examining our own folk/social dance tradition. The historical resources of the Hocken Collections and the studio space available will enable me to undertake a unique conflation of academic and somatic research.’’

University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence...
University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence Swapna Haddow.
Returning to the city of his birth, where he first started dance, will feed into research on how identity informs creativity.

‘‘When I first returned to Dunedin in the mid-’70s, I was a confused and disturbed teenager, and during my time at university I certainly didn’t fulfil my potential.

‘‘I am very excited by the prospect of returning to the University of Otago at a time where my life experience in dance and my academic career is cohering in an exciting new direction.’’

Swapna Haddow is the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence.

Often writing under the pseudonym Swapna Reddy, she has continued a high tempo of output, with six books released in 2020 and eight in 2021.

During the fellowship she planned to write an ‘‘action-packed heist, full of humour, aimed at middle-grade readers’’.

The book would highlight aspects of Indian culture and feature humour and female protagonists that would resonate with young people and diverse groups in Aotearoa, and internationally.

She was looking forward to having the time and space to concentrate on writing a book she is deeply passionate about.

‘‘I have been writing professionally for the best part of a decade and I recognise what a privilege it is to have the financial support of the fellowship to continue to do that.

Frances Hodgkins fellow Sorawit Songsataya
Frances Hodgkins fellow Sorawit Songsataya
‘‘I’m also excited to be an ambassador for children’s books, within a Unesco City of Literature no less, and I hope this means meeting lots of brilliant authors and illustrators in this wonderfully creative city.’’

Wellington multimedia artist Sorawit Songsataya is the Frances Hodgkins Fellow.

Their previous interdisciplinary work encompasses sculpture, ceramic, textile, moving-image and 3-D animation.

Acknowledging Te Ao Maori and Thai belief systems, they explore themes rooted in Aotearoa’s geological, ecological and cultural history to redefine understanding of subjectivity and ecology.

They will conduct a research-based investigation of locally situated themes (the kotuku, white heron) and material (Oamaru limestone), which blends sculptural and digital media, including LED holography, animation and stone carving.

‘‘The project will build on a collection of footage of the bird I recorded in 2020. Similarly, with the limestone, it will be a continuation in exploring carving techniques and material properties. Weight and weightlessness, stasis and mobility are some of the attributes that I would study and expand from these two key subject areas.’’

- Staff reporters 

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