2019 Artistic Achievement Awards

Using dance, song, photography and film making, the 2019 winners in the artistic achievement category have found ways to bring people and cultures together. They have used their art to tell human stories, share heritage and advocate for wellbeing. We invited them to share their stories.

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Winner: Leslie Nachula from Zambia

Studying: Master of Education (Leadership and Management) at Flinders University

When Leslie Nachula was asked to help organise a Zambian dance performance, she didn’t know it would lead to establishing a growing cultural dance group at Flinders University. As the invitations to perform at various events came flooding in, Leslie and her group were joined by more dancers from all over the world. Together they created a dedicated performance group which uses the universal language of dance to connect people and share cultural heritage.

How did the Flinders International Postgraduate Scholars Association (FLIPSA) Cultural Dance Group start?

The genesis started with me when the International Student Services team were looking for people to give dance performances to welcome international students to Flinders. I asked some friends, and we started out with dances from our Zambian culture. Soon we had lots of invitations to perform, and more dancers joined us from many countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos and other African nations. It’s been very nice for us. We’re having fun.

How has dance helped you connect with the people around you?

Our dance group is a wonderful opportunity for cultural exchange among the diverse international student body. With dance, you don’t have to understand the language. It’s so universal. It draws you in and energises you. By learning to dance and sing to songs from other cultures, we connect with these cultures in a deeper sense. The performance encourages us to ask questions and have real conversations. Many members of our dance group have formed relationships with each other and support each other academically and socially. Dance has allowed me to share a piece of my rich culture with the Flinders family, which helps people to understand me and my origin better.

How does your talent help you contribute to society?

Zambians use dance and song to pass on culture from one generation to the next. It is a powerful way of communicating and sharing who we are. Our cultural dance group has performed at various events at Flinders, including Harmony Day and Australia Day. Every time we perform, the laughter and joy are heart-warming. One of our aspirations is to perform for residents in local aged care facilities to help brighten their day with a happy and joyous occasion. 

You’re about to finish your studies and head back to Zambia. Tell us what you’ll miss most about Adelaide.

I will really miss the people who have come into my life. The Australians and my church mates. It was so difficult for me to leave my country, but I’ve been welcomed with warmth, love and acceptance. I always think, ‘Oh my God, these people are so good’.

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Highly Commended: Meixi Chen from China

Studying: Master of Social Work at Flinders University

For Meixi Chen, taking part in her university’s ‘In the Frame, International Stories of Empowerment’ project has led to the start of her ideal career. Initially, Meixi’s involvement involved posing for a portrait and sharing her story, hopes, dreams and struggles as one of the featured students. However, when Meixi was asked to help produce a short video summarising the photographic stories, she was thrilled to realise her lifelong dream of becoming a movie maker. She says she loves to discover people and record their stories, describing the experience of making the video as ‘magical’.

As a social worker, Meixi is passionate about promoting wellbeing for people struggling with their mental health. She says working on this arts program inspired her to think of ways she can use movies and storytelling to advocate for people by providing education and awareness for the broader community. ‘The video I’ve produced represents the first step in my ideal film making career. Importantly, it helps link my social worker role with my personal interests in film making.’

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