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Artist In Residence Experiencing The Real Southland

Southland Art Foundation (SAF) is pleased to have Auckland-based Artist, Nour Hassan, as the William Hodges Fellow Artist-in-Residence this year.

Ms Hassan, who arrived last week, will be completing a four-month residency in Southland. She had recently returned from a residency in North Macedonia, and a visit to Kurdistan where she taught drawing workshops, when she commented to a friend “... I’d love to do art in New Zealand for New Zealand”. This was the impetus in finding and applying for the Invercargill-based residency.

“I like to be in situations that are completely foreign - Southland is completely foreign to me ... it’s very exciting...” said Ms Hassan, admitting she had always thought “it’s where you go to ski”. After a few days, her perspective had already changed significantly. First impressions included how incredibly flat the landscape is. “I’ve never seen anything so flat!” In Invercargill she’d noticed the low-rise buildings, the big roads, and how “spread out” everything is – “I didn’t expect that.”

Working in mainly drawing and painting, Ms Hassan describes her painting style as “messy”. She has started using ruled lines in her painting to describe the orderliness of the city’s grid-like structure and clean air, which she wanted to capture. “And the atmosphere here – it makes those lines really crisp, where the sky meets the buildings, I think that’s unique to this part of the world,” she added.

Ms Hassan’s fresh eyes on the southern culture had noticed the Scottish influence. “I came out of the pool yesterday, there was a pipe band playing. [Anywhere else] it’s not what you’d normally see ... The Scottish heritage here has kind of blown me away.”

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Ms Hassan was on a steep learning curve about the importance of farming in the province, observing its strong influence in the culture. “Farming has always been foreign to me,” but now she was already wearing a Swanndri and boots. “Farming really does shape the people and the way they are – how they dress, speak, move. It’s absolutely fascinating to me on many levels,” she said.

Born in Kuwait, Ms Hassan has moved around a lot; her family immigrated to New Zealand in 1996. She acknowledged the frequent upheavals have shaped her as a person, “I’m not grounded in one place”, and informed her art. “People fascinate me. A big part of that is my upbringing,” she says. It comes from observing what is going on around her. Moving to New Zealand in her childhood, she’d had the experience of integrating into a foreign culture. “Coming from an eastern culture into a western culture, my thing has always been about learning to adapt,” she explained.

Ms Hassan wanted to experience as much as possible while here, and was very interested in the south’s first settlements. She had tried surfing at Riverton and planned to hunt out the big anchor in Bluff. “There is a strong sense of identity, culture [here], the idea of holding yourself in a place. When I saw the big anchor it really resonated with me - I can ‘drop anchor’ anywhere, and be grounded.”

Ms Hassan said what she hoped to achieve during her time in Southland, was “to produce work that moves the viewer”. She aimed to capture and show some of Southland to people in other places. “I want others to see the things that have really captured me,” she added.

During the residency Ms Hassan would be providing workshops and presentations to SIT students, with opportunities for members of the wider community to also participate. Some rural workshops are also in the planning stages. To view Ms Hassan’s art, go to or the Weekend Gallery in Titirangi, Auckland.

SAF was established in 1995, with the ‘Artist in Residence’ programme beginning in 1996. It was renamed the William Hodges Fellowship in 1999. Over this time, more than 50 artists have been hosted in Southland from a variety of fields, including photographers, painters, sculptors, poets, illustrators and more.

SAF Chair, Alison Broad, said SAF was delighted with the calibre of the 18 applications for the 2024 William Hodges Fellowship. “We are very pleased to welcome Nour to Murihiku, and we’re excited about the art she will be doing while here. We are also looking forward to the exhibition of Nour’s works which will result from the residency.” She added SAF was especially appreciative of the support of its partners and funders and of the general community.

SIT Operations Lead, Daryl Haggerty, noted SIT’s long-standing partnership – more than 25 years - with SAF, continued to be important for fostering the arts in Southland. “Encouraging the arts helps to support vibrant communities. It’s great to welcome an artist of Nour’s creativity to Invercargill, where she’ll have opportunities to interact with our ākonga and the community.”

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