Those of us who tuned in to Channel Nine’s Australia’s Got Talent on Monday night were in for a truly pleasant surprise. In amongst the dancing cats and precocious five-year-old opera singers and whatever the hell this was meant to be…
… there was a young woman named Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa. A 21-year-old first generation Australian born Sikh with a fabulous head of hair and a thick Melbin’ accent, she marched onto the AGT stage and did something pretty unheard of for a reality show: she was real.
A spoken word poet, Sukhjit blew the doors off the place with her poem “To Advance Australia Fair” and pretty much nailed the current sitch facing anyone in this country who isn’t pasty skinned and true blue.
Spoken word poetry is a pretty brave world; a place where heavy topics are never off limits - race, discrimination, gender, sexuality, war, religion - it’s all fair game. And Sukhjit’s poem was no exception. She started…
“If you’re not in Australia, ‘where the bloody hell are ya?... unless you’re of caramel descent and then ain’t nobody got time for that”
… pointing out the gulf between the “welcoming” Australia we like to show the world and the harsh realities of actually living here when you look like you come from somewhere else.
It wasn’t a call to arms, just a rallying of the troops - the troops in this case being any halfwit with a moral compass who doesn’t automatically see someone with dark skin and broken English and assume they jumped a queue with a grand plan to destroy Australian society from within through Sharia Law and large helpings of falafel.
Sukhjit calls herself an activist and a feminist, sharing a message of anti-discrimination, but on Monday night she was more than that - she was a realist:
“I’m confused as to why, on Australia Day… a teen rips off my uncle’s turban… a hooning ute throws a rotten peach at my dad and screams ‘go home, ya bloody terrorist!’”
She’s acutely aware that we’re living in a time when different equals suspicious. Nobody bothers to check the distinction between Sikh and Muslim. Or between Arab and Islamic for that matter. It’s just “you’re different and I don’t like you.”
But the perfection of the performance wasn’t just in the poetry, though she’s clearly brilliant with words. It was all in the timing: Prime Time. What was so particularly awesome was that she used her time - 7:30 on a Monday night - and a huge audience of people expecting to see just another pair of juggling monkeys, to say something important.
After she finished - and got a standing ovation - Dicko even went as far as to say that what she had done was “Not just spoken word poetry - it’s nation building”. A pretty big call, but he’s right. She’s a rare voice of wisdom amidst the idiocy of reality TV. Amidst the idiocy of the current Aussie political landscape, to be honest.
The fact is, despite our ongoing love for all things gritty and dark-humoured and on Netflix, when it comes time to tune out after work we tend to opt for fluff: pretty (or famous) people with good culinary skills or nice voices or funky dance moves or freakish abilities to contort their bodies into unnatural positions.
That’s cool. It’s showbiz after all and God knows we need to block out the bullshit of the world from time to time. But it’s so damn refreshing to see someone - a young, Sikh woman at that - go on TV and say something necessary and be entertaining at the same time.
Bravo, Sukhjit! You’re a “Fully Sikh” breath of fresh air!
Watch Sukhjit’s whole performance here: