I’m an Indigenous rapper signed to Bad Apples Music and last week was a pretty huge week for me.
I took over the @IndigenousX Twitter feed for Reconciliation Week and received the Dreaming Award from the Australia Council at the ninth National Indigenous Arts Awards in front of some of the country’s finest Indigenous artists, my family and my partner at the Sydney Opera House.
Here I am at 20 years old sitting in the backyard on a chair I’ve sat on many times before and contemplated many things throughout my life and find that I have continuously asked myself: “What does it mean to be Aboriginal?”
I’ve grown up in a western setting, right in the heart of Darwin. When I explain my mob I say it’s like saltwater meeting freshwater, I walk in the best of two tribes.
As I write, my first ever solo exhibition, Decolonist, is underway as part of Australia’s leading festival for emerging contemporary art – Next Wave Festival 2016. This project has been the major focus of my life for the past 18 months and I was lucky enough to also take part in Next Wave’s kickstart program, which offers professional development to emerging artists.
Kickstart challenged us to think about where our practice is situated in the society we operate in. We considered our role as artists in the face of major social and environmental issues, ranging from racism and white privilege to climate change.
We are co-hosting @IndigenousX this week to highlight how much is going on around suicide prevention, families and communities in Indigenous Australia. On 5-6 May, the Inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference took place in Alice Springs, and 12 May is #IHMayDay16 – a day devoted to discussing Indigenous health.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and knowledge are fundamental to our wellbeing. It is important for individuals to be happy and healthy for their families and communities to be healthy as well. The strength and dynamic of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture is a big part of what makes a healthy community.
My name is Kelrick Martin, and my family are from the north west of Western Australia, but we call Broome our home. My mother is the second eldest sibling in a family of nine children, and I am the eldest grandchild. Mum’s parents – my grandparents – knew the value of education from a very early age, and worked incredibly hard to provide for their children. When my grandfather, the patriarch of our family, passed away when I was 15-years-old, it was a huge blow to us all.
Starting out as a radio trainee at Goolarri Media in Broome, an Indigenous owned and operated media organisation in Western Australia in 1997, I was incredibly shy. It took me six weeks before I went anywhere near the studio. Part of my job however was to document Indigenous voices and broadcast them to our local audience, effectively preserving these stories for future generations. I had to get over being shame pretty quickly. Having already lost the stories of my grandfather, I realised how vital it was to retain the stories of our elders and culture before they too were lost forever. I also learned that media technologies like radio, film and television were the key to promoting this. It was a calling for me, and one I was keen to pursue as far as I could.
Most people have that one teacher. Like Sidney Poitier’s Mark Thackeray in To Sir, With Love or Robin Williams’s John Keating in Dead Poets Society. The one who inspired, opened our eyes to our own abilities and ultimately helped take us out of our adolescent angst so we saw – for the first time – the much bigger world around us.
Mine was Mr Coburn. He was my English teacher from Mossman State High School in Far North Queensland.
The recent shenanigans around the use of “invasion” instead of “settlement” was annoying on so many levels. Not least of which was the stark reminder of how many Australians just require an inciting “green light” from media to let loose a tirade of hatred and ignorance aimed at Indigenous people.
It can happen at the drop of a hat, over the most insignificant of events.
While holding her iPod my 10-year old daughter takes a break from her social media platform, she looks up and asks me “Dad, what did you have when you were my age”.
Me: “Baby, I had a pair of shorts, a haircut and a download called mum that uploaded real quick through clenched teeth, usually saying, ‘go outside’, and if I didn’t take note she would become louder with an extra word put in.”