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Unlocking Hidden Histories

Filmmaker and animator Huni Bolliger has brought to life stories of historic prisoners during a six-month residency at the NT Archives.

By Tamara Howie

“I set myself the goal of studying the history of the gaol and looking at three characters that spent time there,” she says.

Bolliger focussed on three significant characters or events – Rodney Spencer, the first white man to be convicted of the murder of an aboriginal man; Ah Kim, a Chinese prisoner who was shipped off to Mud Island when it was discovered he had leprosy; and John Novotny and Jerry Koci, two Czechoslovakian immigrants who were the last men to be hanged in the NT.

Bolliger spent months in the Archives as part of Arts NT’s Creative In Residence program.

“It was overwhelming doing it but also very exciting,” she says.

“You can order photos from the 1890s and look at them – it’s like Christmas when you get this box and you don’t know what’s in it.

“You’re literally holding pieces of our past,” she says.


The residency is open again, giving artists the opportunity to delve into the NT’s historical cultural institutions. 

Also opening this month is the inaugural Arts Fellowship, offering established artists and arts workers up to $50,000.

Arts NT director Angela Hill says these grants were born out of feedback from the creative community who wanted more professional development opportunities in the Territory.

“We believe that artists and arts workers are more likely to continue to make significant contributions to NT arts and culture and the community if we can invest in their development and if we can openly recognise their achievements,” she says.

There are no restrictions on art form or practice and Hill says it’s great to be able to offer these grants.

“These two programs are a great opportunity for established artists to support their professional and personal development as well as career advancement,” she says.

“Something we haven’t been able to offer in this way before.”

Huni Bolliger Under Lock and Key - An Insight Into Fannie Bay Gaol | OPENING THU 19 APR | 5.30PM | NT ARCHIVES

Creative In Residency Grant | APPLICATIONS CLOSE MON | 16 APR | INFO


Top & Thumbnail image - Huni Bolliger, 2018, animation; NTAS original photo

Middle image - Huni Bolliger, 2018, animation and NTAS original photo


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