An assortment of First Nations artists have collaborated to reimagine Childish Gambino’s This Is America, instead setting their sights on Australia.
Noongar rapper Beni Bjah has joined forces with First Nations dance company Marrugeku to create This Is Australia, a blistering remake of the American-aimed original first released by Childish Gambino in 2018. Reorienting the original’s searing take on the US to instead confront Australian audiences, This Is Australia sees Bjah and Marrugeku tackle racial injustice in a similar vein to Gambino.
Throughout the four-minute remake, the collaborators offer an indictment on Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, refugees and migrants. Bjah raps of January 26th and the white Australian customs of barbecuing and the NRL, as all-too-familiar images of incarcerated First Nations people and news reporters dance into focus. References to colonialism, James Cook and heavily armed police officers follow.
Speaking of his inspiration in an interview with The Guardian, Bjah said “having Childish Gambino’s version to go off actually helped.” The rapper continued: “This Is America had already inspired me so much, all these ideas just popped in my head. We could have probably written three or four songs.” Bjah, whose previous tracks have likewise critiqued Australia’s racial inequalities, said the country ultimately “has a fear of the unknown.”
The Marrugeku dance company is one of many across the world to reimagine Gambino’s choreography for new audiences. To date, the 2018 song has spawned remakes for countries like Iraq, Nigeria, Barbados and Malaysia, all of which similarly take aim at nation-specific issues from war to racism and colonial independence.
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Speaking of the intentions behind their choreography — which they said mimics “the kind of stereotypical dance that people imagine Aboriginal people doing” — Marrugeku’s co-artistic directors Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain said they make the show in honour of those “people who are incarcerated, on prison islands [or] in detention centres.” Watch Beni Bjah and Marrugeku’s This Is Australia remake above.