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The Black Arm Band Company Holds a Mirror

Australia’s The Black Arm Band Company is a music theatre group that reflects and expresses contemporary Aboriginal identity. NPR recently featured the muti-media music company on their work as protest, education and positive action.

From Aboriginal Musicians ‘Band’ Together To Expose Oppression, on npr.org:

A black arm band is a gesture of mourning around the world. But for aboriginals in Australia it has come to mean something else.

The “black arm band view of history” is a version of history that takes a critical — some would say militant — analysis of Anglo-Australia’s mistreatment of indigenous people. Much like American Indians, indigenous Australians — who’ve lived on their continent for at least 40,000 years — have had their land stolen, treaties broken, and children taken away.

That’s exactly what The Black Arm Band sings about. …it’s a kind of all-star protest music supergroup, featuring a rotating roster of Australian indigenous musicians who are all successful in their own right.

…Dan Sultan is a 28-year-old aboriginal rocker who’s played with The Black Arm Band from the beginning.

“What The Black Arm Band is trying to do,” Sultan says, “is open people up, open peoples’ eyes up to the situation, just put a big ole mirror up so people can have a bit of a look at themselves.”

Together since 2006, The Black Arm Band Company has produced 5 major productions, their most recent being Dirt Song which explored Aboriginal languages, and features both Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers, as well as international guests. In the below video, About Black Arm Band, member and songwoman Lou Bennett describes their work as “an act of reconciliation, that both black and white can co-exist and worth together to create beautiful, high, excellent art.”

More from npr.org:

One of Australia’s best known aboriginal singer-songwriters is 57-year-old Archie Roach. His most famous composition is his personal story of what have come to be called the Stolen Children. These are the aboriginal sons and daughters — especially mixed race children — who were forcibly removed from their parents by the Australian government to be raised by white foster families between 1870 and 1970. (Roach was 3 when he was taken away.)

…”We can be our own worst enemy,” Roach says. “It’s no use, us pointing the finger of blame at anybody else anymore. We gotta point our finger straight back at us. We can’t blame colonialism anymore. We gotta get out of it, change our mindset.”

It’s well worth reading the full transcript, or listening to the 8 minute radio documentary at npr.org/2012/07/04/156204104/aboriginal-musicians-band-together-to-expose-oppression. To learn more about The Black Arm Band Company watch the below.

WATCH: About Black Arm Band

About Black Arm Band from The Black Arm Band on Vimeo.