A workshop about filming for online resources quickly turned into a songwriting session when Noongar Wongi rapper Flewnt had a video call with remote education students across Western Australia.
Together with students from the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE), Josh Eggington, who performs under the moniker Flewnt, created Never Forget, a hip hop song about being connected to culture and Country.
When students in Laverton expressed a desire to learn how to write their own rap songs, distance educators Donella Grieco and Amy Rosato saw it as an opportunity to engage the students in language: Aboriginal English, Standard Australian English and code-switching in a fun way.
The project intention was to make video resources in the SIDE studio that could be used in the online Moodle courses, including a question-and-answer video and a workshop video that students could follow.
When Eggington went online with the students to film the workshop, it was the biggest songwriting class he’d ever taken.
He estimates about 30 students were present, with kids tuning in from Pia Wadjarri community, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Shark Bay, Geraldton, One Arm Point, Dalwallinu, Wongan Hills, Exmouth and Laverton.
Together with Eggington the students wrote rhymes that, over the course of the session, became Never Forget. The song is about connecting to Country and remembering who you are.
Eggington said the session became something special for everyone involved, with the kids using the medium of hip hop to express pride in their cultural identity.
“There [were] kids that weren’t Indigenous that were saying how connected they felt from just being there and amongst the experience that they were having with us, so it kind of transcended past [being] just a cultural workshop,” Eggington told NIT.
“It became a learning and engaging thing for everybody that was involved. Even the teachers were feeling an experience coming from it.”
SIDE educator Donella Grieco said it was a privilege to be able to collaborate with Flewnt.
“Everyone loved it! Our students feel such pride in the song that was produced, and they often request to listen to it after class,” she said.
“The workshop was so memorable for the students and teachers, and we are really looking forward to finishing editing the video resources and using these with our students as well.”
Eggington said hip hop can be transformative for kids who have struggled to feel heard.
“It’s important because it sort of gives them an avenue to express how they’re feeling. I’ve seen kids transform after being able to write rhymes and their lives change because they’re given a voice,” he said.
“Adults ignore kids sometimes and it’s a really sad thing but when a kid makes a song, everybody listens. It’s incredible.”
He said hip hop is particularly effective for First Nations kids.
“Hip hop is a great learning tool for language of course, for understanding poetry and rhythm and writing,” he said.
“But particularly because hip hop comes from black struggle … it kind of gives us a platform that we can easily relate to and therefore our culture and cultural words can come into it quite easily.
“It feels like a safe space for Blak Australia to be able to express themselves.”
Both SIDE staff and Eggington said they hope to replicate the workshop again in the future.
“This workshop has received such positive feedback from students, teachers and everyone involved. We are really excited to have started a collaboration with Josh and we would love to continue this into the future,” said Grieco.
Fellow SIDE educator Amy Rosato said SIDE would like to run a face-to-face workshop with Eggington in the future.
“The experience of the students and Josh connecting on the day was just exhilarating and it has made us think differently about what could be possible in future, when we think about how we might be able to create further opportunities for our Aboriginal students across WA to connect, collaborate and create together in different ways.”
By Sarah Smit