EMILY WURRAMARA: Who I Am
Emily Wurramara is creating music that reflects the many cultural heritages she has come from.
In her debut EP Black Smoke, Wurramarra effortlessly fuses sounds representative of her upbringing and cultural heritage to create tracks in both English and Anindilyakwa [the traditional language of her home on Groote Eylandt, NT]. The tracks are expressive, sentimental and speak of a woman who is proud of who she is and where she has come from.
Wurramara has taken her music around the world, with shows and festival appearances in Sweden and France, and is one to watch in 2017.
THE PIN. Who is your mob and where's your country?
EMILY WURRAMARA. My Mob are the Warnindilyakwa people from Groote Eylandt Northern Territory.
Tell us a bit about your childhood? Where did you grow up?
E. I grew up in Groote till the age of 6 then I moved to Brisbane. My childhood was a mix of island hopping, to fishing, to just chilling on the beach.
Do you recall when you first became aware of race, how did it come about?
E. I realised when I was about 8 or 9 years old that not everyone came from Australia and that there's different parts of the world. My father is Filipino/Chinese so I was always surrounded by a very multicultural family.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
E. Artists such as India Arie, Corrine Bailey Rae, Lisa Mitchell, Nia Palm.
What does music mean to you?
E. Music is an expression of who I am, it defines my identity, my soul and my spirit.
What are your thoughts on celebrations such as NAIDOC week?
E. I love NAIDOC week, it's so good seeing everyone come together to celebrate culture, It fills me with so much pride that we still are here, regardless of what history put us through. To me that's amazing. I love the dances from T.I and from all the tribes, I'm such a culturally focused woman and I just want to soak up as much as I can. NAIDOC week is the best time for that, there's discussions and marches that focus on broadening your mind on indigenous issues, being aware of that is super vital.
Do you think there is enough acceptance of Indigenous performers in the mainstream music scene?
E. Most certainly! Not in the mainstream but definitely in the underground scene, artists like Garrawa, Yirrmal, Thelma Plum, Vonda Last, Corey Theatre, Rob Miller...just to name a few. It's inspiring seeing these brothers and sisters succeed in their music and we’re all very supportive of each other's achievements, which I adore. There's no real competition, it's like a big family.
What does it mean to be a modern day Indigenous woman in Australia?
E. Sometimes it can be very difficult, especially where I come from, we still have that male hierarchy system. Me being a woman and living in the city, following my dreams, can sometimes be frowned upon because it’s not my 'role'. I refuse to let that hold me back. At the end of the day I am representing my people and my main focus is to share my message. I aim to get the women from the community up and out to experience the world and take advantage of what it has to offer. I've stepped out of the boundaries and shaken things up. That to me is what it means to be a modern day Indigenous woman.
THE PIN. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice about being in the skin you're in, what would it be?
EMILY WURRAMARA. If I could tell young Emily something it would be to not be afraid. To be strong and not care about what anyone else thinks, because at the end of the day only you can make you happy. You can't depend on anyone else to do that for you.
- This interview has been edited and condensed.