Victoria Hunt

Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka

I am profoundly moved and grateful for the opportunity to assemble these three Indigenous contemporary dance artists as part of our Face 2 Face series this year. Lara, Victoria and Jacob each explore deeply moving and personal stories in distinctive and remarkable ways.  

For Windigo, Montreal-based Lara Kramer conducted research at her grandmother’s home in northwestern Ontario’s Lac Seul Reserve. This visceral duet offers a raw and unflinching look at the suffering and destruction that results from violence against Indigenous peoples, as she confronts the deep traumas that permeate these histories. We’re proud to be one of many Canadian co-producers of Windigo.

Victoria Hunt’s Copper Promises – Hinemihi Haka – delves into her Māorian roots and the powerful story of the ceremonial meeting house and female ancestor Hinemihi. This solo is a journey of reconnection with one’s traditions and culture as told through movement, sound score and projections. 

And, Jacob Boehme’s Blood on the Dance Floor is a courageous and inspiring work that speaks about his own experience as a gay Aboriginal living with HIV. Drawing on the practices of his Narangga and Kaurna background, Boehme uses theatre, dance, ceremony and storytelling to weave this touching and powerful tale. 

Thank you for joining us to experience these immersive works, and Life in Motion.

Word from Victoria Hunt

I am the house and the house is me. I dance the history of the house and she reveals my history.

There are multiple ways to tell the story of Hinemihi – it’s a story of origins, a story of traumatic events, and it’s a story of colonial violence. It’s also my story. Copper Promises carries with it an aspiration to articulate how knowledge oscillates in the physical form of a living body – a woman’s body; a descendant along ontological lines, and a direct descendant of the Marae.

The Spirit of Hinemihi
Tarawera mountain with sunset morphologies, lake behavior and glistening silica terraces, beautifully deadly. Through the mist, my head starts to oscillate small, loose head, neck and shoulders; underneath body, eyes wrap behind, grotesque and extraordinary. Dog headed warriors, lake of phantom predictions.

Acts of Transgression
Three million for the Goddess of Death; three million for a carved house lintel; three million for my pelvis; looted, sold on the black market, caught in a separation… a frozen marriage.

Ancestral House – Ancestral Body
I dance the house and the house is dancing me.

Pull in down, dismantle it, record, document, store it safely – REPATRIATE. In the end it’s a collection of wood. And when wood rots, no more house.

The Spirit of the People
Body abandoned by spirit. Lifting out of the bones, flesh and skin like thin streams of smoke, floating into the atmosphere. A husk remains. Becoming a person lost and searching for loved ones. Thick ash and mud cling to you, drawing you down. A mother with children buried in crushing weight. The most awful sound of silence… being urged by unknown forces towards Te Arai.


Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka

“Hunt has a powerful presence and the fierce haka is a strong contrast with the serene composure of [their] final walk forward. This final move is one of deep reverence, [their] connection with [their] heritage is profound and the final image is a true coup de theatre.”
– Julia Cotton, Sydney Morning Herald

Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka is a solo dance work embodying the cultural and physical journey of Hinemihi – a female ancestor and ceremonial meetinghouse connected with Hunt’s iwi, Te Arawa and hapu, Ngāti Hinemihi.

In 2003, Victoria went to Aotearoa and met their relations for the first time. They were taken to Tarawera mountain and lake and introduced to tribal stories and ceremonial practices.

They heard the story of the volcanic eruption in 1886 displacing their ancestors from their land. Hinemihi – the carved ancestral meetinghouse where many survivors had gathered to shelter from the eruption – was left there until they could return. Assumed abandoned, Hinemihi was ‘acquired’ by the Earl of Onslow and transported to his home in Surrey, England. She remains there to this day, under the care of the National Trust UK.

Hinemihi was constructed by sublime cultural tradition, but she was sold. She was seemingly unmovable; and yet she moved. The house was made under a scheme of traditions as a collective spirit of a people, but then became part of a property in a foreign land. The gardener in Surrey, England, is detached from an insightful relationship with Hinemihi, and yet sees her more than any of her descendants.

Copper Promises interweaves the journey of Hinemihi with Hunt’s own experience – of finding family, of reconnecting with culture, and of learning from land, ancestors and peers. Using a unique vocabulary of detailed movement, viscerally realized imagery and sensation, Hunt and collaborating artists create a world of rupture and foreboding, of resilience and joy.

Copper Promises is a protest, a pilgrimage and a lament.

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Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body; auspiced by Performance Space.

Originally produced with financial support from the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the NSW Government through Arts NSW; Critical Path and Performance Space. Developed with assistance from Fiona Winning (original producer and dramaturge), Performance Space; Department of Performance Studies (University of Sydney); Creative Practice Lab (UNSW); Queen Street Studio; Artful Management; and Ausdance NSW.


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