Amrita Hepi is a choreographer who uses her art to highlight issues facing indigenous communities, pushing the boundaries of dance while addressing ideas of authenticity and culture.
Photography by Hannah Scott Stevenson.
You’re known for pushing the boundaries of dance in your work, how so?
“I’m a choreographer and dancer and I guess I work on the periphery of those things. I have a very expanded way of working. That means I work in gallery spaces as much as I work in theatres. I have a cultural dance background and I guess my culture is quite prevalent in everything I’m doing. I’m a Bundjulung woman from Northern NSW and a Ngapuhi woman for New Zealand, and these different stories help to create some of the work and some of the topics that I choose to make work about.”
How does your work make you feel?
“My work makes me feel a whole spectrum of things on any day, but most of all it makes me feel determined and honoured to work in the space that I’m working in, the people I get to work with and the subject matter I get to work on. It makes me feel incredibly grateful to do something that can contribute to a legacy of change.”
What in your life are you nurturing right now?
“The continual practice and how I invest rigour into my own work. It's about how I look to divide my attention into other people and how I’m giving back to the community that raised me. I’m looking at how I can be innovative with what I’m doing. So constantly trying to have rigour in my work and in my principles but also too in my physical practice. I guess that really comes down to having critical discourse with those around me and being able to nurture my practice.”
And who has nurtured you throughout your life?
"First and foremost my community. I like to think of the people who came before me who have forged a path, not only in dance, but in politics and in a way of thinking that has allowed me to have a voice and a platform for where I am now. There’s an equal balance between elders in my community and familial history which is my matriarchal line, but also too elders in dance that have been really revolutionary for me. I guess a lot of indigenous dancers and a lot of people in the Australian performing arts scene, especially in indigenous performing and visual arts, have been incredibly inspiring to me. Sometimes nurturing is seeing someone achieve things they never thought possible.”
Finally, what does the notion of nurture mean to you?
“I think that sometimes the softest things show the most strength. It’s something we cultivate for ourselves and it’s helps us to soften into strength. If I think of the people who are the strongest in my life, they’re often charged with the care of others and the community.”
“The notion of nurture is the action of showing love and being able to really hold empathy and space for other people. It’s something that I’ve been lucky enough to have from the people around me. It’s something I’m trying to cultivate in my day to day life.”