Mothers, Music, A Movement

Emma Donovan, Kristal West and Deline Briscoe talk to us about the mothers in their lives, art and activism

5 min read

Mother’s Day is upon us and there’s no better time to celebrate the women and artists who raise families, inspire us with songs and still find the space to try to make our world a better place!

In just over a week, BLAKTIVISM will galvanise our Concert Hall with the voices and music of First Nations activists and artists. Among those voices are artists Emma Donovan and Kristal West and, Gaba Musik Artistic Director, Deline Briscoe.

We spoke with Emma, Kristal and Deline about how their mothers and motherhood have influenced their music and what BLAKTIVISM will bring to its audiences.

Emma Donovan
Emma Donovan
Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder.

How have your children and mother-figures influenced your music and career as an artist?

“My family and my community are everything to me. They are the biggest balance that I have as an Aboriginal woman in the music industry. Both of my grandmas and my parents have inspired me and it’s this inspiration and knowledge that has helped me pave the way for my two daughters.”

What do you hope they are most proud of when they see you perform and listen to your music?

“My daughters are proud of their mum. I’m always thinking about the two little sets of ears I have listening to me sing on stage, as its these songs that I hear back when they sing in the backseat of the car.

“My five-year-old daughter always wants to wear her hair out at school. When I was her age, I was so embarrassed of my hair – I would tie it back as tight as I could to hide it. I love that my daughter is embracing the free spirit that she sees in her mum now and I have that influence.”

You’re set to perform in BLAKTIVISM as part of QPAC’s Clancestry, why is this concert important? Why are you excited to be performing?

“BLAKTIVISM is so rare because of the collaboration with Gaba Musik and the importance of blackfellas artistically directing a production like this. There should be more shows like it. It’s more reason for me to be working with this collective and the difference our musical community creates to tell our story.”

What do you want ‘the take-away’ for communities and future generations to be when they hear your music and attend music events like BLAKTIVISM?

“To be proud, to always talk up no matter how dark or dim our stories are. To make mob feel proud about standing up and being a part of something. We have a generational responsibility to talk about our history.

“To work alongside Bart Willoughby, one of the fellas who has led the way, performing alongside one of our younger artists Tasman Keith is simply incredible. It’s so important to have a point of view across generations presented, providing many generational perspectives.”

Kristal West
Kristal West
Image supplied.

How have your mother-figures influenced your music and career as an artist?

“My grandmother, mother and Aunty Celuia have been massive influences and support systems in my life and examples of staunchly proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

“My grandmother was an Indigenous political activist and an advocate for equality. Both my grandparents Eddie and Bonita Mabo lived in an era plagued with significant inequality. My grandmother was one of my biggest supporters in life – she would always become very emotional when her grandchildren would succeed. In hindsight I think it’s because she never had the opportunities my cousins and I have access to today and was so proud to see her grandchildren achieve their dreams and goals.”

“My mother raised me to be a woman strong in culture and identity. My mother taught me the family tree and engrained multiple generations of bloodline and history into me. She taught me traditions, customs and the roles and responsibilities of a Torres Strait Islander woman. My mother also allowed me to live with my Aunty Wanee and my grandfather’s sister, which helped me learn more Meriam Mir (language) and hear stories.

“Aunty Celuia is a rock to me. She is the Aunty who is always there to listen support and help lift my spirit. She a loving, big hearted Torres Strait Islander woman whose doors are always open to me and my cousins. She also guides and teaches me a lot about Torres Strait Islander people, culture and language.

“Without these women, I wouldn’t be strong in my cultural identity.”

What do you hope they are most proud of when they see you perform and listen to your music?

“I hope they are proud of my determination to carry on our family history and stories through songs – specifically the efforts of my grandparents Eddie and Bonita Mabo.”

What do you want ‘the take-away’ for communities and future generations to be when they hear your music and attend music events like BLAKTIVISM?

“There are still significant gaps of inequality and injustice faced by Indigenous people but there is also so much strength and determination within our communities. Indigenous people are still here, living, breathing and practicing culture and it is our responsibility to maintain and strengthen our cultural identities.”

Deline Briscoe
Deline Briscoe
Image supplied.

How have your mother-figures influenced your music and career as an artist?

“My mother was stolen from her family at the age of four. During her time in the dormitory she was forbidden to speak her language. Writing songs in my language became the cornerstone of my songwriting, recording and performance creative career. Then I had the privilege to be a part of the revival of other First Nations languages across the country. The strength and grace of my mother, her sisters and her mother have influenced me as a woman, mother and artist.”

What do you hope they are most proud of when they see you perform and listen to your music?

“I hope they hear the power of my mother tongue and see how our Yalanji culture and language can bring healing and strength to so many.”

Why is BLAKTIVISM an important concert to stage right now?

“We have had a couple of really difficult years with COVID and addressing the issues of social injustice within our communities with the Black Lives Matter movement. BLAKTIVISM is an opportunity to revitalise our communities and music is the best way to bring everyone together again after such a long time of being apart.”

What do you want audiences to take-away from the event?

“I want people to take away the memories of the subtle beautiful moments, the full force of the Blak voice, the wisdom of our elders in the industry and how they all play a role in our communities and in Activism/Artivism.”

BLAKTIVISM touches down on our Concert Hall stage next Monday 16 May 2022. Stand up and join us!

QPAC NOW

Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.