‘Division’ Is Barkaa’s Powerful Ode To Post-Referendum Blak Rage

Barkaa sitting across from a white man rapping about Australia's true racial divide in 'Division'

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Staunch Malyangapa, Barkindji rapper and mum, Barkaa has a new single, ‘Division’ and it perfectly captures how mob are feeling post-referendum.

Since releasing her deadly debut EP, ‘Blak Matriarchy’, Barkaa’s (aka Chloe Quayle’s) rise has been a professional, cultural and personal triumph. Speaking to Junkee in 2022, she told us what it was like to go from an ex-inmate recovering from addiction to lighting up a billboard in Times Square, and becoming something bigger than herself. “I really want my sisters to feel seen and heard with this. I want to pay homage to them,” she said.

Her new track has more than made good on that promise. ‘Division’ is the latest banger by the Malyangapa, Barkindji artist. Opening with a sound bite from an archived vox pop of a man advocating for the casual lynching of Aboriginal peoples, the track is immediately set-up as Barkaa’s response to the pervasive and unfiltered racism against Aboriginal people that the Voice to Parliament campaign brought out.

The title is a direct reference to the sentiment shared by many ‘No’ voters. Many ‘No’ voters successfully campaigned on the sentiment that an Indigenous Voice to parliament would only further the racial divide in this country. Barkaa makes no bones that ‘Division’ is a retort to that argument, getting straight to the point with her opening lines, “You want division? Ok listen/My people making up 28% of these prisons”.

The song also refers to Aboriginal deaths in custody, “I’m sick of my mob locked up, all over petty crimes/White man gets let off and the Blackfullas lose a life”. Barkaa also unpacks the colonial violence and attempted genocide at the root of Australian society, “You went endangered our species all my Ancestors was slaughtered/Then they created the borders, while they wiped out our knowledge”.

Barkaa scoffs at the ‘No’ campaign’s “division” argument and uses her signature artful anger to point to the divide that has always been imposed on Aboriginal people by settler-colonial Australia. She also nods to the new division the referendum defeat has created.

Every lyric is a raw, grief-stricken indictment of the hurt caused by the racism of white Australia. Barkaa, like many First Nations peoples, expresses utter disillusionment with any prospect reconciliation, and a table shared between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous Australians. “I don’t want your table, fuck your table and its weak legs/Fuck your constitution, you can keep it for them rednecks,” she raps without holding back.

And in case the track itself wasn’t enough, the music video, directed by Josh Lee, sees Barkaa delivering each vicious verse sitting across a table from a symbolic white Australian man wearing a green and gold cap. Not once does she back down or break eye contact. Like many First Nations peoples post-referedum, Barkaa is unashamed of her rage, and unafraid to stare its source right in the eye  because it’s not Aboriginal people who should feel shame for racism, it’s racists.

In a statement, Barkaa explained her feelings behind the track, and how her rage over the victorious ‘No’ Vote inspired it. “I was just so sad. But then a part of me was like, ‘At least I’m not crazy. Everything I’ve been feeling is real, is the truth. The nation’s rejection of us confirms it.”

Barkaa’s ‘Division’ is a powerful ode to the grief, fury, and despair many First Nations peoples are feeling right now. The realisation that the majority of Australians don’t believe we deserve a voice, let alone a chance to actually heal the wounds of white colonialism, is a merciless one. Crisis hotlines have seen an increase in calls from Indigenous peoples feeling distressed and unsafe, post-referendum.

Here, Barkaa’s art as it always has gives a voice to those of us mob feeling voiceless. As she told us last year, “It’s okay to be an angry Blak woman sometimes. We need that anger to pull through. We have every reason to be angry. We have every reason to be mad,” and with ‘Division,’ Barkaa lists them all.

Image: Press