Arts / Culture

Jessica Mauboy on recognition, representation and partnering with TikTok for NAIDOC Week 2021

NAIDOC Week 2021

Elevating the voices of First Nations creators is a commitment Jessica Mauboy does not take lightly. Sitting next to the award-wining artist at AAFW's first-ever First Nations designers show; her pride was unmistakable. Now, Mauboy is fostering representation and inclusivity through a new lense; joining TikTok as a part of the platform's NAIDOC Week 2021 hub.

Announced early this morning, TikTok is celebrating the monumental week through a programming initiative that is dedicated to elevating First Nations creators and content on the platform. From July 4-11, the platform will be spotlighting a diverse group of Indigenous creators who've been nominated by their peers from the TikTok community.

Headlining the week's unmissable live performances, is none other than Mauboy herself; performing excerpts of her favourite songs, sharing her personal and cultural connection to music and speaking to fans through an exclusive Q&A. Joining her in the line-up is singer-songwriter Miiesha and RUSSH purist, singer-songwriter Budjerah.

Ahead of next week's celebration, we sat down with Mauboy to talk about her TikTok debut, this year's NAIDOC Week theme and how TikTok can elevate First Nations creatives in a way other platforms can't.


The NAIDOC Week theme for 2021 is Heal Country. How does this year’s theme resonate with your own experience and your hopes for reform and fundamental change?

I think the focus is really about elevating First Nations creators, whether that be through culture, music or content on TikTok. In the time that we're living now where our access to different platforms and digital content has been amplified, I think it's so important to be able to see not only where the history has come from, but through this new projection and generation of young voices; and then how this content translates to their audiences. So, to be able to collaborate with a platfrom as significant as TikTok is actually phenomenal and fills me with hope for what can be achieved moving forward.


What does it mean for you, as an Indigenous artist who has helped pave the way for other creatives in this industry, to see mainstream platforms like TikTok championing this movement?

I think that it takes a community to be able to drive that change and to want it. The more that we're seeing this push – from all avenues – the stronger our community or even individual creators feel to want to share their work and experiences. And it's so nice to see that TikTok is giving First Nations creators that space. For me growing up, I never had the opportunity to be in a place where I was able to create so freely and not feel like I couldn't; or feel ashamed or that I couldn't be the person that I am.

So, to see TikTok fostering and creating spotlights for everyone – not just people who have tonnes of followers, but also for those creators who are still building their following – and for other users to still be able to see what you're doing, who you are and what you're about is really quite a change.


You’re relatively new to TikTok. What drew you to the platform and why do you think it’s becoming such a crucial space for Indigenous creators’ voices to be heard?

In the past, I've never really given myself the permission to share that level of candidness and access to me in my own time doing such simple things like watching or reacting to content. I think now, that those simple, everyday moments are actually classed as content, I think there was this weird sense of adrenaline that really pushed me to get myself on the platform and start connecting with my audience in a way I had never done before.

It's also still so exciting and interesting to me that such simple content can evoke such a deep emotion and I think that stems back to the idea of human connection. Humans watching humans in a way that reminds us that everyone is different and has a different story to tell. I think this is part of the reason why TikTok is such a crucial space for Indigenous creators because its a place where individualism is cherished and the sharing of experiences is valued.


And what an exciting time to be joining the platform in time to celebrate NAIDOC Week. You’re obviously headlining the program with an amazing live performance, but what can we expect from the live stream and your conversation with fans? 

Naturally, I'm someone who is just so excited at the idea of uniting different audiences and the TikTok NAIDOC Week hub for 2021 is just a great space to foster this. This is a time where we're literally bringing an audience to everyone's living room, and I'm just going to be one of the many amazing faces that are going to sharing their story, their song, their dance – whatever they've created on the platform.

In addition to this, we're going to be speaking with so many amazing, talented people out there during NAIDOC Week and I'm just as excited as anyone to learn and see the many colourful and talented creatives that are going to take centre stage. But hey, I wouldn't rule out any unplanned sing-a-longs because I'm known for signing everyone's ears off. But most importantly, I will be shining the light on talented First Nations creators out there and I want to be a leader for them the same way people supported me during my career.

How do you think TikTok can support the discovery of new and upcoming First Nations creatives in a way that other platforms can’t?

I've spent some time thinking about how much weight certain platforms carry and with TikTok, the content opportunities and ability to just create are endless. Whether it's through story, song, painting... it's such a powerful vehicle visually. And this week of programming and initiatives and learning from First Nations creators is just invaluable in elevating their presence on the platform and sharing our community.

I think the magic behind this initiative for NAIDOC Week 2021 is that it's not only being supported by the platform, but also by the communuty who want to see it; who are searching for it; and who are constantly being inspired and learning.

For me, I see it as such an amazing time for communicating, connecting, learning and sharing; and what could possibly be better than that?

Head to TikTok for the full program ahead of next week's celebrations.


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