A young man of words and actions

Socially aware rapper Luka Haralampou is well versed in community, arts and academia

Hip Hop artist, poet, anthropologist, community artsworker, university lecturer…for Luka Haralampou it’s all in a day’s work.

“The knowledge that universities have and promote and teach on a day to day basis is so far removed from what we are taught from our media and politicians and it’s so far ahead it’s ridiculous,” rapper / academic Luka Haralampou says.

Haralampou first began in Hip Hop while studying an Arts degree and now combines his love of performing with academia and community projects. After completing his degree in Brisbane, Haralampou moved to Melbourne in 2006 to complete his masters in Indigenous studies at Monash University’s Centre for Indigenous Studies.

Achieving first class honours Haralampou turned his back on more lucrative job offers to dive headfirst into the arts scene. “I moved back to Brisbane and started doing arts work and that’s when Hip Hop and music became more important to me,” he told Neos Kosmos. “I started doing Hip Hop workshops, making theatre and music productions with refugees and indigenous young people around Griffin, Queensland and the Northern Territory.”

Haralampou crosses between slam poetry, Hip Hop, performance and theatre. “They intertwine because in rap sometimes the verses and the eloquence of what you say in your verses, when put to music is lost, and I really like performing without music,” he said. After winning one of the Brisbane heats for the poetry slam last year, Haralampou was awarded runner up in the Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup two Saturdays ago. “I came second in the Doris Leadbetter Melbourne Poetry Cup, which was out of 40 poets so I was very happy about that because I’ve only just moved down to Melbourne and all the poets down here are incredible; to be up there is pretty great,” he said.

Haralampou’s studies and work have seen him hop-scotching between small rural communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland, to the bustling city of Melbourne. But he insists Brisbane will always be home. “I go back to Brissy quite a lot, obviously my family is there but also my poetry family and I’ve got a really close group of friends in West End, my grandparents are there so that’s my Greek connection,” he said. The Haralampou family history is deeply ingrained in West End, he says with his father’s family migrating there from Rhodes in the 1950s and Haralampou attending the same school – Brisbane State High School – as his father. “I’ve just always hung around West End, even now when I walk through the back streets of West End there’s old ladies who know me because they know my grandparents,” he said.

Yet Haralampou said whenever he left Melbourne he always missed the city, which eventually lured him back to teach at Monash University earlier this year. As assistant lecturer of Indigenous Studies last semester, teaching all the tutorials for the 115 students, Haralampou said the knowledge he teaches of Australian history is very confronting for many students. “To think I’m sitting there in a classroom and just saying to the students that Australia was invaded is a confronting thing for all these students to come to terms with. It’s a really privileged position I’m in, you’re really at the frontline of knowledge,” he said. “The knowledge that universities have and promote and teach on a day to day basis is so far removed from what we are taught from our media and politicians and it’s so far ahead it’s ridiculous.”

A background in academia has significantly benefited his arts work in the indigenous community, Haralampou said. “To have that grounded knowledge and work in a centre that facilitates that knowledge, and then take that knowledge into the community and be an arts workers that is more informed than just a rapper is really, really important,” he said. “I push for all arts workers to do not just a general indigenous cultural awareness program but to do a really strongly grounded learning, in particular to communities. Spend more time learning than just teaching so you can keep languages alive in Australia,” he said.

A chance to learn more about the Yanyuwa indigenous culture lead Haralampou to the Northern Territory several times in recent years. While he was there he learnt the Yanyuwa language from community elders and ran Hip Hop workshops with the youth. “I went up to the Northern Territory and was accepted into the community of the Yanyuwa people, and they gave me a skin name and a bush name, and I’ve been accepted into that family so when I go up there we’re all related,” he said, adding “we used English and their language, Yanyuwa, to do a language preservation project”.

Haralampou said his poetry and arts work allow him to have informed conversations with people and translate information that mainstream Australia doesn’t offer. “It’s really a blessing, I’m a big fan of edutainment, educating through entertaining means,” he said.