The title in the opening scene alone speaks volumes: "West Papua is a country in waiting".
On December 1st, 1961 West Papua — once known as Dutch New Guinea — was granted independence. Indonesia promptly invaded and took back control of the region, and ever since the West Papuan people have been fighting for their freedom, battling both against oppression from Indonesia (including actions that has seen their population percentage reduce from 98% to under 50%) and for wider recognition from international governing agencies — a bureaucratic struggle epitomised with the widely criticised 'Act of No Choice' vote of 1969.
Attempting to re-ignite awareness of the issue and to coincide with the annual December 1st global ceremonies — commemorating the first Morning Star flag raising in 1961 — ARIA-nominated, Melbourne-based Melanesian artist Airileke has recorded a new track entitled "Sorong Samarai". It's the debut release from politically motivated label Rize of the Morning Star and exclusively premiering today via Rolling Stone Australia.
The song's title references Sorong, a town in the north-west corner of West Papua and Samarai, a small township in the south-east of neighbouring Papua New Guinea. The geographical line between the two locations — commonly referred to as "S2S" — is often used to signify a united state of solidarity.
Building from that strong statement of heritage and identity, the song fuses traditional chanting and log drum percussion with a punctuating reggae rhythm that delivers a striking sense of urgency. The fist-pumped passion through the verses — both in English and traditional dialect — is only momentarily paused for the poignant, anthemic hook: "one people, one soul, one destiny"; a line adapted from exiled activist Benny Wenda's United Nations address 20 years ago.
"We wanted to positively present the beauty of West Papua and PNG and the strength of its culture and people, so the wider community connects emotionally to the situation and begins to take a stronger interest", explains Airileke of the striking scenes in the accompanying video. The clip, directed by Carlo Santone (Blue King Brown, Nattali Rize, One Rebel Creative), continues the song's strong sense of celebration via a vibrant array of pristine island scenery and — more importantly — an exhibition of the tightly preserved culture of the people of that land.
Following the release, Airileke is set to take the song to an even wider audience in early-2017, with plans for a series of performances with collaborators from West Papua, PNG and Australia.
For more information on the Free West Papua Campaign visit the official website.
Channel Ten's current affairs program, 'The Project', will also be airing a special report on West Papua's fight for independence on December 1st at 6:30PM (AEDT).