Swan Hill artist awarded Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship

[by Lucy Powell]


Victorian artist Glenda Nicholls has been awarded the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship.

Image: Sandra Kropinyeri

Stories inspired by family, community and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will be woven into artwork being created by master weaver Glenda Nicholls, the recipient of the 2020 Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship.


Established by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in memory of Mr Darvell Martin Hutchinson, 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.


Glenda Nicholls is a Waddi Waddi, Ngarrindjeri and Yorta Yorta artist based in the Swan Hill region of Victoria. She is a master weaver who constructs elaborate sculptural work that connects the present with the ancient past. In her work Ms Nicholls applies cultural weaving techniques alongside intimate knowledge of the waterways, river plants and grasses on her ancestral Country.


“This fellowship will help me to keep telling stories of everyday life happenings of mine and my family, friends, work, community and COVID-19. Like so many others I’ve been affected emotionally and physically by current events and these themes will be intertwined and woven into my artwork,” Ms Nicholls said.


Ms Nicholls is also working on a major commission, Miwi Milloo (Good spirit of the Murray River) 2020 as part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) Triennial exhibition opening in December, where the University of Melbourne is Research Partner. Triennial Major Supporter Lisa Fox has supported this commission and enabled the acquisition of Ms Nicholl’s work for the NGV Collection.


“I believe Miwi Milloo will be the most powerful work I have yet made and am very proud and honoured that my weaving style has been acknowledged.”


University of Melbourne Vice-President (Strategy and Culture) Dr Julie Wells said Ms Nicholls joins a growing list of Indigenous artists bringing their work, knowledge and experience to a wider audience.


“Thanks to the generosity of the Trust we look forward to welcoming Glenda during her fellowship at the University. Glenda’s time with us will offer many learning and research opportunities,” Dr Wells said.

“Her revival of traditional cultural expressions in weaving and her close understanding of the place of weaving in women’s knowledge systems will ensure cultural practices survive into the future.”


Dr Philip Moors Chair of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust congratulated Ms Nicholls.


“The vision for this fellowship is to provide Victorian Aboriginal artists with the opportunity to  explore ideas and develop skills that will bring into focus the unique qualities of South-eastern Australian Indigenous culture. We are delighted that this fellowship will continue to support Glenda’s practice beyond her recent commission for the NGV Triennial,” Dr Moors said.


The 2020 selection panel for the Hutchinson Indigenous Fellowship included Professor Marcia Langton, Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne and Mr Myles Russell‐Cook, Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria. Previous awardees are:  Tiriki Onus (2014), Josh Muir (2015) and James Henry Little (2016). The fellowship was not awarded 2017 - 2019.

Glenda Nicholls (b.1954) is a Waddi Waddi, Ngarrindjeri and Yorta Yorta artist based in the Swan Hill region of Victoria. Her cultural name is Jule Yarra Minj, translating to little river girl and her maternal Ngarrindjeri totem is the Writcharuki or willy-willy wagtail. Glenda is a master weaver, constructing elaborate sculptural work that connects the present with the ancestral past. Glenda applies cultural weaving techniques she acquired alongside intimate knowledge of the waterways, river plants and grasses on her ancestral Country. Glenda is determined to share her cultural knowledge with younger First Nations generations, seeing this exchange as crucial to ensuring cultural practices survive into the future. Glenda exhibits her work both locally and globally, including Honiara (Solomon Islands) and Guam. In 2018 Glenda was invited to exhibit at the 4th Pulima Indigenous Arts Festival, Taipei, Taiwan.


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