Hip Hop and rap have emerged as an important vehicle for artists of indigenous descent to spread awareness about their culture and, of course, their language. Through art, these artists have found a way to bring the current struggles of indigenous groups to the world’s conscience.
The Mapuche are indigenous people from South America, in today’s Chile and Argentina. Having a population of around two million people, they are one of the biggest indigenous groups in South America. The Mapuche speak Mapudungun, a language which is currently struggling to survive due to oppression from colonizers and current governments. In fact, it is estimated that less than 20% of the Mapuche population speak Mapudungun, and neither Chile nor Argentina recognize it as an official language. In both countries, the Mapuche also suffer from discrimination, and consequently, due to loss of land, many have had to move to cities in order to sustain themselves. Unfortunately, this has led to many Mapuche people losing touch with their culture and their language.
Rappers Portavoz, Luanko and DJ Cidtronyck from Chile released a song that combines Mapundungun and Spanish in 2018 called Witrapaiñ (Estamos de Pie) which can be translated to “We’re Standing on Our Feet’’.
Portavoz, Luanko, DJ Cidtronyck - Witrapaiñ (Estamos de Pie)
The family of one of the artists, Luanko, is from Mapuche origins and migrated to the city in the 1980s as an effect of urbanization, which has been one of the main challenges for the preservation of indigenous languages. Luanko learned Mapudungun by visiting the Chilean countryside and interacting with people who spoke the language, who happen to be elderly people. The population of young Mapudungun native speakers are the minority, which has put the language in a dangerous position as it is becoming extremely difficult for the older generation to pass on the language to younger people, and this is how many indigenous languages have disappeared. Through Witrapaiñ these Chilean hip hop artists have tried to bring attention to this issue.
The official music video currently has more than six million views on Youtube and it has sparked conversations about the conservation of indigenous languages in Chile and the rest of Latin America. The song is dedicated to the Mapuche community, who has made the effort of keeping their culture and language alive, as well as protecting their land.
Luanko has another song in Mapudungun, Lawen (Medicine), honoring the Mapuche culture and traditions. The name of the song comes from how the Mapuche population has its own medicinal practices and “ways to heal’’. Even for people who do not speak Mapudungun, the songs are definitely worth a listen. The rappers manage to perfectly mix traditional Mapuche melodies with modern hip hop music, allowing for a wide audience to enjoy. What’s more, the music videos evoke emotions and highlight the discrimination of the Mapuche, giving the songs even more weight.
Luanko Minuto Soler - Lawen
The authors :
Agustina Piriz is a 21 year-old fourth year student of International Studies from Universidad ORT, Uruguay. Currently, she is studying abroad for the spring semester at Sciences Po, Paris, Campus de Reims.
Anna Tiselius is a Swedish second year student at Sciences Po Paris. She is majoring in Politics and Government with a focus on Europe and North America, and currently taking a course in Languages of the World.
This article is a result of a collaborative project between #AuxSons and Alejandro Abbud Torres Torija, lecturer at Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims, and regular contributor to #AuxSons. As part of the class “Languages of the World/ World of Languages”, international students from Sciences Po Paris Campus Reims prepared articles presenting contemporary music from different parts of the world in connection with recent socio-political events.
Photo : Portavoz, Luanko, DJ Cidtronyck - Witrapaiñ (Estamos De Pie) : Oficial Video screenshot