Emily Wurramara

Photographed by Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore

Emily Wurramara won't let anyone put her in a box

"When people listen to me, they think singer/songwriter, and I'm so much more..."

As women, many of us have often felt pigeonholed into a box – viewed by society as one-dimensional. Perhaps as someone’s mother, sister or daughter, or as someone defined merely by what they do for a living. It’s a feeling all too familiar to musician Emily Wurramara. While I introduce her to you as an ARIA-nominated artist from Nipaluna/Hobart, she’s of course so much more than that. 

“When people listen to me, they think singer/songwriter, and I'm so much more than what they think when they've put me in these boxes,” Wurramara tells Missing Perspectives. “I’m a storyteller, I'm a healer. I'm a mum. I'm a person. I'm a producer. I'm a businesswoman. I'm all these beautiful elements.” 

Wurramara’s realisation of her multifaceted identity has come over time. As she’s evolved as a person, so has her music. She began writing her newly-released song, Magic Woman Dancing, a decade ago as a teenager. It was about bittersweet feelings in high school influenced by social taboos around sex and sexuality. But so much has happened since then.

Putting the songwriting pen down and only picking it up again recently has perhaps been one of the most empowering things Wurramara has done. As she now releases the song after travelling, giving birth and navigating a professional career for many years, her track has taken a new form with greater depth and soul. It’s a reminder of the various layers that make you who you are, and that “you can take time with your art”. 

“You can take time with it and you can have experiences and space to understand yourself first before you release,” she reflects. 

Magic Woman Dancing ties into a lot of my story. This started out as a young person who had no experience, someone without this kind of understanding of the depth of songwriting – to being a mature woman now with my own family, my own dreams, visions and legacies that I want to leave.

“So much growth has happened and by allowing myself the time to understand what the hell I'm saying, I think it's really powerful.” 

Emily Wurramara

Photographed by Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore

Having given birth to her daughter six years ago, Wurramara says motherhood has hugely impacted not only her personal life, but her professional one too. She chooses to frame her music and conduct herself in business in a way that sets an example for her daughter. 

“I feel like the way that I look at my music now is so fearless and so relentless because I am so protective of my daughter,” she says, explaining she’s always considering “what I'm leaving for her and what life that I'm living for her as well.”

“I’m setting an example to her that she can do what she wants whenever she wants, and as long as it makes her happy, I’m 110% backing her and supporting her and whatever her decisions will be in the future.” 

The theme of motherhood and matriarchy thrives in Magic Woman Dancing, with her own mother, Angela featuring in the artistic music video alongside Wurramara herself, plus Gabe Comerford (founder of MakeShift Dance Collective), and Kai Mason (Wurramara’s partner). 

“Having her [my mum] in the film clip was an absolute blessing because I feel like she's going to be captured as what I see her as all the time – this magic entity, this magic woman.”

In the captivating video clip, attention to detail is very clear with intricate costuming, prosthetic masks, and special references to Emily's cultural identity such as a white cockatoo representing her matriarchs, grandmother and wisdom, and a hibiscus representing the balance of feminine strength, a weaving mat and crystals. 

Sex and sexual expression are also explored, with the singer’s shift in perception carving out how it’s depicted through her art. She says she wanted to challenge the stigmas and taboos around men versus women when it comes to sexual liberation and self-expression. In order to achieve this, she asked Comerford to star in the clip. 

“The colonial Christian way of thinking is we need to be covered and we need to be silent women,” she says. 

“But there’s this whole masculinity energy, which is kind of why I chose Gabe, who is the main character in the film clip, to represent this being an entity. You can be masculine and embody the feminine, you can be feminine and embody the masculine simultaneously. I feel like we are all capable of both energies.

“There's all these different layers of existential self that we don't recognise in the western way of thinking, but with mythology, there's many cultures that represent both male and female,” she continued, adding it was important to convey the beauty of “sexual freedom and how sex is actually a beautiful thing”. 

As she proudly speaks about her new music, she’s navigating new territory as a self-managed artist after parting ways with previous management. It’s certainly not easy when “as a First Nations woman, this music industry was never made for our voices to be a part of”. 

“When you take back your power, and when you come to understand yourself more, I feel like you are able to make decisions that are right for you based on your own reflections, experiences, agendas and so forth,” the musician reflects. 

As well as being on top of the business aspect, Wurramara says the change has been important in ensuring cultural safety while on tour, to avoid racism and misogyny which she says is “experienced very frequently in the industry”. 

“I’m just putting the right things in place so that I can tour more comfortably and I can do my job comfortably and feel safe while doing it.” 

Whether it’s in the music industry or not, feeling safe at work is paramount for every woman. As she strives to continue setting an example for her daughter, women in First Nations communities and her broad spectrum of fans, Wurramara’s ready for her music to take us all to places filled with raw passion, hope, growth and love. 

Magic Woman Dancing is now available to listen to via ABC Music, with Emily Wurramara also set to perform at A Festival Called Panama in March and and Ride the Wave Festival in April.