Australia

Australia’s national anthem has been reimagined by this Aboriginal rapper

Have you ever written a song by playing table tennis? Probably not. But that’s exactly what a group of Tasmanian children, and Tasmanian Aboriginal (pakana) rapper DENNI, want you to do.
‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’ is an art installation that was launched at the Birmingham 2022 Festival in the United Kingdom this week. The festival showcases global art and culture alongside the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which starts on 28 July.
Sam Routledge is the Artistic Director of the Hobart-based Terrapin Puppet Theatre, the organisation behind ‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’.

“Anthem Anthem Revolution is a participatory installation that gives people the opportunity to battle a table tennis robot to replace Australia’s national anthem with a new national anthem,” he said.

Players will have to battle a table tennis robot in order to write a new Australian anthem Source: Supplied / Terrapin Puppet Theatre

Terrapin was given the opportunity to pitch an idea to the Birmingham 2022 Festival. That idea had to be based on a sport in the Commonwealth Games.

“Table tennis is a very rhythmic game, it’s hit return, hit return … and it creates its own rhythm,” Mr Routledge said.
“When you think about a big sporting contest like the Commonwealth Games, the national anthem is something that unifies and brings people together.

“We wanted to have a look at our anthem, but also have a look at who’s writing that anthem, and whose hopes and dreams does the existing anthem represent, and whose hopes and dreams might a new anthem represent?”

A man smiling at the camera. He is wearing a collared shirt and a black jumper

Sam Routledge is the Artistic Director of the Terrapin Puppet Theatre. He came up with the idea of ‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’ after realising the game of table tennis has a rhythmic pattern to it. Source: SBS News / Sarah Maunder

As participants play the game, they’ll simultaneously create a new anthem: with each hit or bounce, they’ll hear a child’s voice or musical sound. The more successful the player is, the more voices and sounds they’ll hear, and that will create the player’s own unique anthem.

If a player is very successful, they’ll be able to complete a bonus round, which will unlock a completed recording of the anthem that DENNI wrote with a group of Tasmanian children.
Here are the full lyrics:

Verse 1

Anthem Anthem, this a revolution

Stop the division and start the inclusion

Work out the problems, find the solution

From changing the climate and causing pollution

Working together to stop the confusion

It’s Anthem Anthem, it’s a revolution

Chorus

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

And humans our nature

Now we’re moving as one

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

We are, we are

Verse 2

This land has Indigenous heart

Multi-coloured Australia

Through history’s scars

The youth is our voice

Still needs to be heard

By every allies’ ear

It’s the power of words

They Echo through time

With the lessons we learn

Still building a future

And we’re putting in work

Chorus

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

And humans our nature

Now we’re moving as one

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

We are, we are

Verse 3

Acceptance is key

These hands are my own

Like the limbs of a tree

Together we grow

Our past may leave

A bad taste on the tongue

We’re still moving forward

With a rainbow thumb

A protesting foot

Stomps hard on the land

Remember to acknowledge

Chorus (x2)

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

And Humans our nature

Now we’re moving as one

Our bodies the land

The waters our blood

We are, we are

Denni Proctor — professionally known as DENNI — is a pakana rapper/hip-hop artist based in her home state of lutruwita/Tasmania. It took her and the group of Tasmanian children about a year of workshopping to come up with the final anthem.
“A few themes (during the writing process) came up in the room, just about identity, place and culture, and we landed on Australia as a body, and our body as Country,” she said.
milaythina means Country in palawa kani, one of Tasmania’s Aboriginal languages.

“Working with these young people, it was just very apparent how much of their environment – and what’s going on in the world – that they are absorbing and critically thinking about.

A man and a woman sitting at a table inside

Denni and Sam Source: SBS News / Sarah Maunder

“It was really exciting to be in the room with these young people, and hear their ideas, and hear what is important to them, and hear what they wanted to say, and so I just sort of wrapped that up into a package with rhyming and rapping.”

Ms Proctor travelled to the UK this week to help launch the ‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’ installation.

“It is so exciting to have any work from Australia, let alone from Tassie, overseas, and represented, it’s such a proud feeling, and I hope that the audience over there can get as much out of it as we have as a community and arts workers bringing it all together.”

A few themes came up in the room, just about identity, place and culture, and we landed on Australia as a body, and our body as Country.

Denni Proctor

pakana siblings Isabella Triffitt, and Declan Triffitt-Haney were part of the group of children that helped come up with the anthem. Isabella, 12, said it was important that the anthem respected Tasmanian Aboriginal culture.
“I wanted it to be welcoming to everyone, every colour, gender, everything like that,” she said.

“I wanted to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, the Aboriginal people.”

Her brother, 13-year-old Declan, said the anthem was an opportunity for Truth-Telling.

“I think it’s best to recognise that the Aboriginals were the first people to be on the land, and recognise what the English invaders did to them, and the war crimes they committed, because it was a war,” he said.

A teenage boy wearing a denim jacket and sitting in a chair

Declan Triffitt-Haney, 13, says an important theme of ‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’ is Truth-Telling. Source: SBS News / Sarah Maunder

For now, Anthem Anthem Revolution is just an interactive art installation, there are no plans to replace Advance Australia Fair with it, or any other song. But one day, if Australia was looking for a new national anthem, Ms Proctor would put Anthem Anthem Revolution up for consideration.

“I’ll always put my hand up to challenge old ideas,” she said.
“And I suppose, to put my hat in the ring, to be a strong advocate for Tasmanian Aboriginal people, and for First Nations people around the world, and how critical and important the information and knowledge we hold is, and how important it is going to be in the future, as we hopefully start to think more again about Country, and our position on Country and how we can reverse some of the things we’ve done to Country.”

‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’ will be on exhibit for another week, before heading to the Queen Elizabeth Live Site in London for one week. The installation will be available to the public for up to eight hours each day.

A teenage girl sitting and facing the camera

Isabella Triffitt, 12, wanted the anthem to reflect Australia’s diverse cultures and pay respect to Aboriginal people. Source: SBS News / Sarah Maunder

“It’s weird that something i’ve written is in the United Kingdom, and being seen by people I’ll probably never meet, it’s kind of strange,” Declan said.

Ms Proctor said she was proud to be in the UK promoting ‘Anthem Anthem Revolution’.

“I think that an anthem should always challenge us, to go, well what is it that we’re standing for as Country, and where do we want to move to, or move forward to together?” she said.

“It is so so exciting to have any work from Australia, let alone from Tassie, overseas, and represented, it’s such a proud feeling, and I hope that the audience over there can get as much out of it as we have as a community and arts workers bringing it all together.”
palawa kani only uses lowercase letters.
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