This week as part of the ASSI History Month Community Voices series we’re featuring South Sea Islander and Bundjalung songwriter/ musician Georgia Corowa, a talented artist based on the island of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Australia. As a performer, Georgia’s music exudes a unique soulful quality. She’s a generous collaborator in her ensemble work and within her original music she is a gifted storyteller, exploring personal narratives that share truths around culture, country, family and her own lived experiences. In this interview, Georgia provides insight into how her upbringing influenced her journey into music and creative arts; the connection between life, art and identity throughout her practice; and she explores some of her most treasured career moments.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a Woman, Mother, Daughter, Aunty, singer/ songwriter with heritage to Bundjalung country and several Melanesian islands in Vanuatu. My family names are Corowa, Spooner, Merrypor, Power, Motto and Dah/Lowe. In my younger years I grew up on Juru country in Bowen, then moved down to Yugambeh Country, South East Meanjin, Brisbane and now I currently reside on Minjerribah/Terangee, North Stradbroke Island. Between motherhood I perform and sing, usually original music depending on what project I’m working on. I see music as a means of expression and healing, individually and collectively. Recently I have extended my skills into Kahuna massage therapy and have a space that I work from on the Island.
How did you start your creative practice and why?
It begins before my time, it’s my family and my upbringing in a South Sea, Murri church. I learnt how music is not just notes being sung or played but more about connection. As I grew, writing songs was a way to express myself and deal with things that I was going through. I decided to go to ACPA (Aboriginal Performing Arts College) and finished in 2008 and since then singing has taken me to many places overseas, working with different artists and also, been my guide through my life so far. My creative practice is very much intertwined with my journey in life. I feel very fortunate to live my life that way and grateful for the opportunities that are available to me, especially knowing this was not always the case in previous generations.
Where did you grow up and has it influenced what you create?
I was born in Maryborough, my parents and grandparents lived in Hervey Bay at that time, my early childhood I grew up in Bowen then my family moved to South Brisbane. For me, my childhood was the best upbringing, surrounded by a South Sea, Murri community that cared for each other. Then moving down to South Brisbane my eyes were opened and I experienced and saw how being blak wasn’t viewed as beautiful as it felt to me. This has influenced what and how I create and what I choose to be a part of.
Tell us about your past creative projects. What has been a highlight so far?
I mostly do solo work but I love being a part of a group because of the different dynamics, the work created, the personal growth you experience. I’ve sung at a lot of corporate and community events around Meanjin. In 2008, I was a part of a group called ‘Sing Sing’ that travelled to NZ and USA, then they did the production of ‘Behind the Cane’ in Bowen, that was special. I’ve been a part of a development of a TSI musical called ‘Straight from Straits’, which tells the story of the world record for the fastest line of railway built by hand. Recording and going on a world tour with artist ‘Xavier Rudd’ was a big life lesson and beautiful experience in 2014-2015.
Tell us about your current project.
This may be my favourite yet… The creation of Suga Cane Mamas, a vocal trio with two other South Sea Murri mothers. We sing our own originals and songs that give voice to being a black woman.
Who or what inspires your practice?
I love seeing what other blak women are creating.
Where do you feel most creative and why?
It’s more of a when for me. Balancing family life is tricky. If I know my kids are all sorted and settled and we’ve had some down time in the saltwater or out on country somewhere, I’m in the flow.
What do you hope audiences take from your work?
A different perspective to how they may view life. To be empowered as blak women.
What future projects are you looking forward to?
I’m excited to see where Suga Cane Mamas will go and my own original songs (one day I’ll record) and ‘Straight from the Straits’ TSI musical.
Whose work in the Australian South Sea Islander community are you digging at the moment?
I’m loving Dr Chelsey Watego’s book ‘Another day in the Colony’. A new artist on the scene ‘Keely’ – she has just put out an EP. My sis, Natalie Lingwoodock, she has just created JMZ a community organisation for black artists. TTPOP she makes her own earrings. Umm I could write a big list!!!
Where can we find and follow you online?
All images courtesy of the artist. Featured image: Georgia Corowa – Photo credit Nikki Michael.
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