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Artist Reflection - Rachael Wallis

The Taiwan-Australia Indigenous artists in residence program presents a unique opportunity for cultural exchange between First Nations artists.

Nhulunbuy dancer Rachael Wallis recently travelled to Rinari, Taiwan, to undertake a six-week residency as part of the program. Wallis reflected on her experience for Off The Leash.

By Rachael Wallis

“Arriving in Rinari was really amazing because you have to drive up the side of the mountain and we’re just looking; ‘wow is this where we are going’? In Rinari you are kind of on a plateau on top of a mountain – you drive up one side and there’s the village but then you look into the distance and there’s massive mountains all around. It’s really slow paced.

I’ve never met so many visual artists in my life, so it really made me want to work more with people like that – for backdrops, or props, or design.

You know those artists back home, ladies who are weaving, people who are painting. They’re things that I can dance about now – this experience really awakened that in me. It all connects! I’ve always kept it separate – ‘I’m a dancer’, ‘you’re a weaver’, ‘you’re a painter’, ‘you’re this or that’, but actually we’re all doing cultural work and we’re all telling stories and bringing our ancestors into our works.

In Taiwan I did three main performances. The first one was in Taipei for the NAIDOC celebrations and the second was the theatre at the cultural park where I collaborated with local artists – we had a Paiwan singer, a Truku musician and myself, an Australian Aboriginal dancer.  

The final performance was my farewell presentation, which also was a powerful collaboration with local performers.

Ultimately, the residency has made me think about letting go, creating movement, and allowing things to come to you. Now I’ve returned I really want to make time so I can create and let nature and environment and family influence my movements.

Even more than that, it’s being carried by it. At times I don’t have to think. It just happens, and I can’t explain.

That experience of having to put together my final performance in such a short time really proved to me that there is another force, there is something else, that when you dance traditionally, or when you let your spirit dance, then it can.

It’s not just about learning the movements and doing the maths in your brain, just that there’s this energy and there’s other things that get you there.”

Living in a small community of North East Arnhem Land, where Yolngu history is passed down through story, song and dance as way of life, Rachael Wallis knows the importance of dance in culture and community. Covering both traditional and contemporary dance styles, she has worked with leading Indigenous dance companies and outstanding choreographers, performing regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Taiwan-Australia Indigenous Artist in Residence Program is a partnership between Artback NT and the Indigenous Peoples Cultural Development Centre Taiwan, supported by the Northern Territory Government, Taiwan’s Council of Indigenous Peoples and the Australian Office in Taipei. The program presents a unique opportunity for cultural exchange between First Nations artists.


Images: Remix Image Studio, Taiwan

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