Updated: Aug 22, 2021
I am an inspired womxn.
Dr Charulatha Mani, an Indian-Australian singer-researcher. A world-renowned performer of Karnatik Classical music of South India, she loves to creatively engage with communities through socially impactful music research projects. Her recent “Sing to Connect” research project explored the role of singing lullabies and storytelling for perinatal mental health and wellbeing in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) new and expectant mothers in Logan, Australia.
What's easy for you as a womxn?
I think nurturing relationships and loving comes very easily for me. I think motherhood has been easy for me to embrace as a woman and is an essential part of my existence.
What's difficult for you as a womxn?
I sometimes find it difficult to say no, but I guess I am getting better at knowing how to say 'no'.
How do you maintain mental fitness/mental health?
I look forward to my daily 'sunshine time'. I sit out on the deck and have my coffee while enjoying the soft rays - any time of the day. I make time for yoga/pilates and connect with my spiritual chanting and singing practices. As a singer, my primary identity coincides with my favourite wellbeing tool!
What brings you joy?
Doing acts that are transformative, for me and other - in art-making, research, writing, and teaching - give me great joy.
How do you nurture your relationship with nature?
I look after my house plants really well and have a lot of them! I love to walk alongside water bodies. I feel deeply cared for when I am in the wooded forests. I like to do forest trails.
Where do you feel a sense of belonging/community?
I am a migrant from Chennai, India, and I belong in a few places and spaces. However, my deep sense of belonging emerges when I am making music with others. I make music with people from different cultures and recently with migrant and refugee mothers, new and expectant. These experiences offer me a great feeling of community. What makes you optimistic about the future? When I work hard and find inspiration in doing meaningful work, I feel optimistic. What motivates you? The desire to accomplish things that could stand the test of time. What’s important to you? Creativity and courage. Why is culture important? It is the bedrock of everything else that we as humans stand for. I think that wellbeing is primarily culturally founded. Culture is special and connects us with our past and future selves. Best piece of advice from a woman? Take your own life decisions. How do you play? I play by having fun with my children. I make silly jokes and sometimes laugh for no reason. I speak in funny voices and tell jokes. I do goofy things! Describe an influential woman in your life ….. My grandmother. She is 94 and still holds the sunlight in her eyes. Full of positivity and energy, she takes life's struggles head on. When you’re down, how do you get back up?
I take a day or so to let things settle. I sit and think. I exercise. I cook for my family and friends. I do something nice for others. The getting back up then follows, slowly but surely.
Charu's “Sing to Connect” initiative shows us how to build alliances with women across all cultures. In this docufilm, Michelle O'Connor, Midwifery Manager of Metro South, says, "What was illuminating... what I really like was the fact we're singing and dancing and sharing and connecting and all of a sudden we're all women, we're not the health professionals... There's a connection on a different level which I think has been a tremendous benefit to us, a surprise to us as well about that different level of connection that we've created in that space between the women and the health professionals who have all of a sudden just become women sharing". Despite their diverse languages, the women have used music and song to connect with each other. We need more of these spaces, these women's circles.
Charu’s research/teaching interests lie in mapping artistic research processes and their cultural origins to lived experiences of everyday creativities in individuals and communities. She was awarded a PhD in historical musicology on ‘Hybridising Karnatik Music and Early Opera: Voice, Word, and Gesture’ from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Brisbane (August 2019). She is also a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Queensland and an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). Visit Charu's ResearchGate, Google Scholar and YouTube profiles.