Because of Her, We Can! Eleanor Dixon pays tribute to 5 empowering artists
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following article contains images and voices of people who have died.
Eleanor Dixon is one of this country’s most exciting emerging voices.
As a solo artist, a member of the duo Rayella (alongside her father Raymond Dixon) and leader of the brilliant Kardajala Kirridarra, she has proven to be one of the great storytellers of Central Australia in the modern day.
Her voice is a gift, and it’s one that she feels confident in sharing because of those women that have gone before her, as well as women who are now her peers.
This week on Double J Mornings, Eleanor Dixon joined Zan Rowe to pay tribute to the women who have empowered her throughout her life and into her musical career.
Emma Donovan & the PutBacks - 'Black Woman'
The first time I met Emma was when we did AWME in Melbourne, me and my dad went down with Rayella.
I met Emma just on the staircase and she was going down to the stage area, because she was about to perform. I bumped into her and she was like, 'Hey, sister!' cos we were the only two blackfellas there.
After I saw her perform – it was the first time I'd seen Emma perform – I was in shock. She had so much power in her presence that she made me stand still. I was like, 'Something's happening to my body'.
She sung this song, 'Black Woman', and it resonated so deep within me. I was like, 'This song is like an anthem for me.’
This song empowers me in so many ways I did not understand, but in that very moment I felt so powerful. She gave me power just by singing that song.
I always listen to it, because it's like a reminder for me. It reminds me how, as a black woman, you have so much power. It gives me hope. It inspires me on every level. I guess that song just sat with me for a long time.
I came back, and I started showing all of my family, my Mum and my aunties and my cousins and nieces. I was like, 'You need to listen to this song. This song is for us.'
I felt a relief. I was like, 'These are the kind of songs that give us the recognition, not by asking for it but by taking it and showing it and presenting it.' It creates a feeling of its own power and agency and sovereignty.
A song like that symbolises a lot of things, it gives us so much hope. And I felt like I was so lucky to experience that in that moment. Whenever I hear that song it takes me back to that night, where I stood there in that crowd and I found myself screaming with so much joy.
Archie Roach & Ruby Hunter - 'Down City Streets'
I just wanted to honour her legacy. I want to always remember her. It's something we need to put forward. Kids who are being brought into the world now, they need to know about Aunty Ruby. They need to know what an incredible person she was. How much power, how much strength, how much wisdom she carried. How much of a healing energy she created and manifested in herself.
'Down City Streets', tells a story about her. Because of what she's experienced in the world, she wasn't afraid to express it. The truth had to be told and that's how she carried herself. She carried herself with honesty. That's what inspired me the most about Aunty Ruby.
I discovered her when I was very young. My Aunty – who was also a singer-songwriter – told me a story about Aunty Ruby after I watched a video clip of her. She seemed like she was just a spirit being, that's how she carried herself. It was the most beautiful thing. It was breathtaking to see and, though
I never met Aunty Ruby, I wish I had. I think she is someone that would be really encouraging and really empowering. Someone who would be the perfect guide to guide us into the right direction as an artist in this country, as well as an Indigenous woman.
Because of her presence, because of her existence in itself, she sort of did that anyway for me. The things that she did make so much sense to me now. These songs carry messages that come from honesty, that come from a reflection of the self. Not to be afraid.
These women carry that so much and it's inspiring to be able to even talk about it and share it. She makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing.
Nina Simone - 'Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair'
Nina was someone who was unapologetic. She carried herself in a way where she was true, in all of her colours.
There's nothing but honesty in this song. It is the most beautiful song. It makes me feel a lot of things. It makes me feel in love. Love that can be expressed in so many different ways.
Nina was raw and honest and soulful. She had knowledge and she never gave up on her existence... at that time being black was hard, it was challenging. Every day she woke up telling the truth. It was full on. Not many people understood who she was and what she was trying to do at that time in America.
She's influenced so many people from around the world. She's made an impact on every person that ever comes across her music. One of the quotes that really sat with me was when she said, 'It is an artist's duty to reflect the times', which makes so much sense even for me now.
Emily Wurramara - 'Lady Blue'
This is now my favourite song to listen to. It makes me feel really calm in myself. I've been listening to Emily for a long time and I've just recently met her. I've always been really, really drawn in by her voice and her story.
I guess, for me, I'm choosing this song and choosing Emily is because I feel in myself that I need to honour and I need to give space and give way and be grateful and recognise and acknowledge another artist sharing the same time as me now.
Even though a person may be younger than me, she still carries the same stories and carries herself in the same way that I do. It makes me feel proud that I'm not the only one doing it in this time. It makes me feel like I'm not alone. It makes me feel okay.
I love the whole album and I want to congratulate her for her success and all the beautiful things that she has accomplished and the many people she has touched as well. It's a good thing that we can do that and share this moment in time.
I want to honour her and acknowledge her. This is the most beautiful song.
Shellie Morris & the Borroloola Songwomen - 'Waliwaliyangu li-Anthawirriyarra a-Kurija'
This song is sung by women who are my grandmothers and aunties and mothers on my mother's side.
My mother comes from Robinson River, which is near Borroloola. My grandmother was a Garawa woman. This song is sung in Yanyuwa, which is a language group that is in Borroloola. Most of these women that sing on this track are my family on my mum's side and my nana's side.
I love this song, it's really beautiful. It's a song about saltwater people. There is an energy you can feel in that song. You can see, when you meet these old women, that they carry the saltwater. They sing about the saltwater, they sing about each other, they sing about the things that they do when they go to the saltwater.
I feel very proud of my connection from that side I feel really blessed to be able to have grandmothers that are strong like that. Mothers and aunties that are strong like that. They give me hope to continue to do what I do.
Even though I speak in Mudburra, my father's tongue, I also still understand my mother's language and a lot of these old women are continuing to teach in language and continuing to sing songs in their language and tell the same stories.
Because of these women they've started a festival in Borroloola, the Malandarri festival, which happens every year before Barunga festival. It came out of the old women, because they wanted to sing these songs. They wanted to sing and dance and teach young people.
These women are so powerful. They might not be in the music industry, but what they do in the community makes a big difference for us, that empowers me to do positive things and bring change and creativity in the community where I live, I'm lucky to have that on my mother's side as well.
I think this song is a song for healing. I always listen to this song. It makes me cry.