Briggs longshot - What Do We Want - Ellery Ryan, C Reko Rennie and STATION
Photo by Ellery Ryan. Courtesy Reko Rennie and Station
Stories & Ideas

Fri 22 Apr 2022

Blaxploitation, jiu-jitsu and The Senator: Reko Rennie talks about 'What Do We Want?'

Art Australia Commission Craft First Nations Pop culture Representation
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Kamilaroi artist Reko Rennie talks about the inspirations behind his loud, proud and passionate three-channel video work.


Reko Rennie: I wanted to touch upon various political chants and they go back to the ongoing political activism of our people. You know, it's just a stance. The power of voice through art and film and acknowledgement of how people just won't take this shit anymore and it's time to rise up against it.

My name is Reko Rennie. I'm Kamilaroi artist based here in Naarm. My latest video work What Do We Want? is a video that's looking at political activism but using blaxploitation references, and it has 12 Aboriginal students learning from a master sensei and it's got a killer soundtrack by A.B. Original.

A really important aspect is that link to African-American culture in terms of blaxploitation, and back in the 70s we had the rise as well of the Black Panther movement, and a lot of those cultural references resonated really quite strongly back here.

But also it goes back to my own experiences. I did Jiu-Jitsu for over 25 years. I thought combining my art background with some of my personal experiences and so that was something I really wanted to touch upon. I wanted the work to have a few powerful statements in it.


"What do we want?"

"Land back!"

RR: Unfortunately they're statements that have remained unaddressed and still as pertinent as they were 30, 40 years ago.

When it come to casting the master sensei for the position, there were a few people I thought about but the one that kept sticking in my head was of course Adam Briggs. You know, The Senator.

I was really fortunate just to have a really amazing cast. It was nice to have all these people from different language groups, different communities, cultural practices and different occupations, but the one thing we all got in common is our identity. Making work in moving image and film it's just so immediate. I get a lot of joy being able to make these statements through art. It's quite powerful.

You have a lot of power to raise awareness and to inform just through some really beautiful imagery.

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