Malyangapa, Barkindji woman, BARKAA, has been on a journey for the past 12 months inspiring those who hear her music and powerful lyrics.

In 2020, she dropped her debut single, For My Tittas, and is days away from releasing her debut EP Blak Matriarchy, which is a testament to powerful Blak women.

BARKAA spoke to the National Indigenous Times about how she is feeling, explaining it’s a mix of excitement and anticipation.

“I’m really excited, especially for my sisters to hear all this stuff, and what I put my heart into,” she said.

“It’s my lived experience, and I know there’s gonna be a lot of backlash.

“I’m really keen for everybody to listen to it, and for our mob to just feel empowered by it and feel heard and seen.”

BARKAA. Photo by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander photographer Luke Currie-Richardson (@balaluke).

BARKAA said it meant everything to her knowing that women relate to her lyrics and are empowered by them.

“We didn’t get to see many of our sisters or aunts getting to say what they wanted in the media, or their labels would make sure that they wouldn’t speak about issues that affect us,” she said.

“It feels nice to be able to give back to my sisters, especially in a male-dominated industry, to be able to do something where they feel heard, where they feel empowered, and create songs that are given to our children, our mums, to our aunties and sister girls.

“It means the world that our sisters are listening to this and feeling empowered by my music because it helps me heal.”

BARKAA spoke of the powerful Blak women in her life who have encouraged her and continue to inspire her music, especially her sisters, aunties, mum and daughter.

“I’ve got three sisters who really inspire me to be better. My mum is a huge part of my life and is really supportive and was supportive throughout my whole journey through ups and downs, I feel like she’s been my backbone,” she said.

“I grew up with my aunties who were very staunch and didn’t beat around the bush with things,” she said.

“They just instilled a lot of pride in me and instilled a lot of power and made me feel beautiful you know, when I’m feeling down — but always remind me of how strong I am and mum would always make me feel like I was important.”

“My daughter, I reckon she’s taught me things that, as a mum, you think that you’re going to be teaching them, but they teach you so much about the world and how to navigate through things and how to be a better person for them.”

BARKAA reflected on the highlights of her career and although there are many, she said she will always remember performing with her daughter at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

“I don’t think I can top that one, I think it was just really special to be at such a big venue and to have my daughter there,” she said.

“Just all the mob that turned up for that, and performing with such an amazing line-up, I felt like yeah, you can’t top that.”

Culture is entwined throughout everything BARKAA does, from advocacy in her lyrics to her stage name which pays homage to the Barka (Darling) River in New South Wales.

BARKAA told the National Indigenous Times that performing under the name means everything to her.

“It means a lot especially with my Community accepting it and being proud of me, and saying that it’s OK to use that name,” she said.

“It means the world to be able to perform under something that’s so solid to us, our rivers are our life system so it feels powerful.”

When it comes to advocacy BARKAA doesn’t shy away from the hard topics.

“I feel like there’s a lot of truth telling that is not being told in this country,” she said.

“We go through school and Aboriginal studies is an elective and it wasn’t instilled into the curriculum that you need to do it.

“I feel like, they (government) want reconciliation, but they just kind of want to get past the truth and stuff. So, getting past stuff that really affects us and that’s passed down for intergenerational trauma that affects us today, like still taking kids away and deaths in custody. These are the issues that still hit home for us, impact all of us. It’s really important for me to come in and be like, you know, this is our lived experience, this is how life is for us.”

BARKAA shared some words of wisdom passed down from an Elder on getting over self doubt and the idea of shame.

“She said, ‘we don’t have a word for shame, in our language, the same throughout all our languages, there’s no word for shame’.

“I feel like in society, we’ve been told that you’ll either be a sports person or an artist like, yeah, Aboriginal people can’t be academics or can’t be anything more than an artist or a sports person,” she said.

“We’re amazing at all of those things, but we’re amazing at anything we put our mind to, and I feel like our people were the first of many things, we come from greatness.

“I feel like when we get in touch with culture and back to believing in ourselves, believing what we are set out to do by our ancestors and knowing that we’re here for a reason. They fought for us for a reason, you know, we survived colonisation, for a reason we’re meant to be here.”

By Teisha Cloos