NAIDOC Week: Celebrate Indigenous creators with TikTok

Gillian Wolski and Marni Dixit
·5-min read

After having been postponed from July to November due to the COVID-19 outbreak, NAIDOC Week — the annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ history, culture and achievements — is finally here.

And, because many of the week’s events have also been moved from in-person to online for social distancing reasons, it’s even easier for all Aussies to join in and support the oldest civilisation in the world.

Artworks painted by children on the day are displayed at Hyde Park on July 13, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Photo: Getty Images.

On Monday night, popular social media platform TikTok kicked off a five-day series of virtual live performances featuring First Nations creators and artists such as Brisbane musician Sycco (aka Sasha McLeod) and makeup artist Sari Ella Thaiday.

Both Sasha and Sari chatted with Yahoo Lifestyle ahead of their live performances.

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Sycco aka Sasha McLeod

For 19-year-old singer-songwriter, Sasha, being involved in NAIDOC Week is particularly special because her granny, a Torres Strait Islander woman, was a jazz singer.

Sasha only found out that her granny — who previously lived in Ireland with her Irish husband — had Indigenous heritage in her mid-teens and she says it took her a little while to realise what that really meant.

“In high school, I didn’t totally get it but by the end of high school I started to understand more and embrace it and appreciate it,” she explains.

Sycco (aka Sasha McLeod) is 'so excited' to perform live on TikTok as part of the platforms NAIDOC Week celebrations. Photo: supplied.
Sycco (aka Sasha McLeod) is 'so excited' to perform live on TikTok as part of the platforms NAIDOC Week celebrations. Photo: supplied.

Sasha is looking forward to exploring her family history with her granny, who now lives with her dad in Brisbane.

“There’s so much to learn and the culture is amazing, the stories are incredible,” she says.

As for her upcoming gig, Sasha tells Yahoo Lifestyle that fans can expect to hear a slightly different take on hits such as “Dribble” and “Nicotine”.

“I’m so excited, the TikTok stream is going to be so fun. I’ve been wanting to do a stripped back set for ages,” she says.

Even though she’s not yet 20 and still has a casual job at Woolies, Sasha knows in her heart that she wants to follow in her granny’s musical footsteps.

“There’s nothing else I want to do except for music and I feel lucky that I’ve found that path and passion and I’m just going to keep going and see what happens,” she says.

Tune in to watch Sycco’s TikTok live stream at 8pm AEDT on Thursday, November 12.

Sari Ella Thaiday

Also from Brisbane is makeup artist Sari Ella Thaiday who is of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal descent. She has amassed a huge following of over 65,000 people on TikTok.

Through her incredible TikTok video tutorials the 23-year-old hopes to educate her 65,000 or so followers about her Indigenous heritage.

Having only started using the platform in January of this year, Sari has come a long way, with some of her videos being viewed by over 120,000 people.

Sari tells Yahoo Lifestyle that having a platform like TikTok to communicate her heritage, especially during NAIDOC Week, is extremely important.

“I think it's such a big deal, you know, Indigenous Australians don't have big platforms to share their views and to share their struggles and issues,” she says.

Brisbane-based makeup artist Sari Ella Thaiday is just one of several talented Indigenous creators that TikTok is showcasing for NAIDOC Week. Photo: supplied.
Brisbane-based makeup artist Sari Ella Thaiday is just one of several talented Indigenous creators that TikTok is showcasing for NAIDOC Week. Photo: supplied.

“So to have a platform on such a mainstream app is so good, not just for me, but for the community as well. And especially during NAIDOC Week when we're definitely amplifying all the voices.

“It's definitely a big deal to me. But in saying that, I've been sharing a lot longer before NAIDOC Week and I think it should be shared on an everyday basis and that's exactly what I do.”

The reason Sari loves TikTok, in particular, is because “everyone has the opportunity to be seen”.

“It's so easy to blow up and it's so easy to get noticed. I just feel as though it's one of the avenues that a lot of people can take to express their point of views. And you do find that it does get a lot of attention and I love that.”

Many of Sari's followers have admitted that they are learning more about Indigenous peoples from her videos than they did at school.

“I did not realise it was that significant, to be honest, but in saying that I don't take credit for anything I do in regards to education, because the things that I share are public knowledge, but it doesn't belong to me and I will give credit to the tribe and whoever it comes from.

“But, what I will say, is that I post in the best interests of the community and I do understand that I have a platform to use and I will use that to amplify their voices because I know they do go unheard.”

TikTok and NAIDOC Week

Along with tuning into the live performances, Sari is encouraging everyone to use the hashtag #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe to search for more videos that celebrate Indigenous culture, history and achievements.

“I don't think that there are many people in my position, possibly a handful of us, who have a platform to use so I will continue to use that to amplify the voices of my people,” she says.

“I just want to basically keep up what I'm doing and finish it off by saying in NAIDOC Week, in keeping with the theme ‘Always Was. Always Will Be.’, I'm not going anywhere and I will continue to stick around and expect to see big things from me.”

TikTok’s nightly NAIDOC Week live program runs from 8pm AEDT on Monday 9 November until Friday 13 November across various creators’ TikTok accounts.

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