Noongar Pop Culture uses contemporary music and fashion design to engage young Noongar students in creativity and culture.
The first Noongar Pop Culture project focused on language revival and aimed to teach students in Narrogin their traditional language – Noongar. With the Noongar language at the risk of being lost, this project inspired students to learn the traditional language through adapting contemporary pop songs.
Watch the documentary below to see how involved the students were and read more about the music and language in the other tabs.
The second Noongar Pop Culture project was a fashion design project that involved 17 female students at Narrogin Senior High School in fashion design, dressmaking, upcycling (giving new life to old products), eco-dyeing, weaving, photography and dance.
The students were featured in a documentary, became involved in a fashion photography shoot, exhibited their handcrafted dresses in Narrogin and in June 2015, the exhibition was brought to the Wanneroo Regional Museum in Perth.
The Noongar Pop Culture music program set out to keep the critically endangered language of Noongar alive by inspiring young people at Narrogin Senior High School to learn their traditional language through pop music, hip hop and media.
In 2013 a team of Aboriginal artists, performers and role models met with Narrogin Senior High School students for a language based community arts workshop.
Actress and Noongar language advocate Kylie Farmer jumped at the chance to be involved and described the experience as life changing. “This is a town where young fellas are suffering and to give them a bit of their culture back just changed their perspective of who they are as young Noongar people,” she said of the project.
Students translated two of their favourite contemporary songs into Noongar and they wrote and recorded two original tracks using Noongar words. They filmed and starred in four music videos and their work was compiled into a CD/DVD pack and launched in Perth during National Youth Week in 2014 at YMCA HQ in Leederville.
Narrogin District High School Principal Maxine Clark said the program had a great impact on students, particularly in their school attendance.
“In the past Narrogin Senior High School has experienced high rates of absenteeism and truancy among Noongar students. There is evidence of increased attendance by Noongar students both during and following previous CAN programs,” she said.
When launching the Noongar Pop Culture DVD the Acting Commissioner for Children and Young People Jenni Perkins said, “it’s very important that there is recognition that these sorts of programs have such a big benefit and that it’s not just a benefit for the time they are doing it. It will have an impact on these young people and their attitude to school, and the fact that their attendance rates have increased is a consequence. I’m really supporting a stronger focus and greater investment in these sorts of programs,’ she said.
Noongar Pop Culture gained widespread media coverage on SBS, NITV and ABC. You can read more about this media coverage here.
After the huge success of the Noongar Pop Culture Music and language revival program, CAN returned to Narrogin Senior High School to engage female students in a fashion project that would help them embrace their identity, culture and creativity.
Seventeen students from years 8–10 took part in a two-month workshop program run by upcycling guru Lady Bananas, fashion designer Elisha Quintal and Noongar artists Sharyn Egan and Marcelle Riley. The workshops included upcycling (giving new life to old products), fashion design, dressmaking, eco-dyeing, weaving, photography and dance and had students creating handmade clothes and accessories that celebrated their culture.
The project aimed to motivate the students to attend school and provide them with new skills and opportunities. In the end, it achieved much more – the students said the project increased their confidence, unleashed their creativity and strengthened their pride in culture.
After completing their wares they took part in a fashion shoot with photographer Simon Pynt and choreographer Sete Tele, and paraded their handcrafted dresses in front of 900 people at the school’s 2014 NAIDOC assembly.
Simon said being a part of the project was a highlight of his year.
“I was blown away by the enthusiasm and creativity that went into the outfit design and creation. But I particularly enjoyed seeing the students grow in front of the camera, from being paralysed with fear to being filled with confidence and hip and shouldering their way back onto the set for more!” he said.
The student’s beautiful work was then exhibited at the Nexis Exhibition Space in Narrogin in late 2014 and attracted more than 250 visitors.
The project gained the attention of filmmakers from Curtin University’s current affairs program Noongar Dandjoo, who produced a documentary that will air on NITV in 2015. The film tells the story of the fashion project and includes interviews with the students and their families, school principal and CAN staff.
In June 2015, the exhibition was brought to the Wanneroo Regional Museum in Perth.