Northern Nigeria’s Young Female Creators Shaping a Fresh Narrative on TikTok

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This article is from Inner City, the new issue of The Moveee magazine. Support the continuous coverage of notable and emerging drivers of culture, creativity, and innovation in Africa by buying a print or digital copy of Moveee: Inner City.

The emergence of TikTok has sparked endless conversations in northern Nigeria where young women are found selling assumed immoralities on the platform and even submitting to sharing insults among fellow users, hence the phrases coined “Matan TikTok,” and “Arewa TikTok.”

With these young women taking TikTok by storm, influencing trends and gossip all over, there is a need to explore other young creatives who stand out on the same platform with a positive narrative to frame them with. From the story of a vibrant brand influencer making waves in Bauchi and miles far away to that of a polished content creator trailblazing Maiduguri with her outstanding skills. To the gripping visual storyteller touring the dazzling landscape of Kaduna — and then, the stunning makeup artist enhancing the faces of Tarabans to an aesthetic standard — the aspirations and steadfastness of these unconventional creators to thrive is astounding.

However, in the efforts to promote the ethical cultures of Northern Nigeria through their works, The Moveee have conversed with these four young female creators who are leveraging the power of creativity and technology in shaping a fresh narrative of the region’s young women who are setting digital footprints in building a new generation of Arewa TikTok users.

Zara Alim

In 2022, amid the ASUU long-strike, Zara was bored and nothing seemed working for her. It was during that period that she decided on to start exploring TikTok, born out of the idea that with her sensational voice, she can tell stories of people, what they do, and even their products to increase sales and visibility.

“It’s interesting for me to market people’s products on TikTok. The good thing is that if you’re serious about it, you get to learn,” said Zara on how she feels promoting brands on TikTok.

What she always does before making a promotion is to study the product and its value, or the organization and its vision, because it helps bring out quality and reliable work. Telling people’s stories through her content has helped her to travel outside her environment, to visit other places, and learn their cultures and languages. It’s worth her time now and then.

Zara who recorded over 90,000 followers in the past six months felt that TikTok is a platform that can turn emerging brand influencers like her into stars. Although she also admits that a platform as such has a negative impact, especially on the growing numbers of young users who are fond of displaying what she terms inappropriate content.

“I’m changing the negative narratives parading social media platforms through my content, right from the way I dress and on how I expressed my thoughts,” Zara told The Moveee.

Susu Abdul

Susu who hails from Maiduguri decided to be more active on TikTok in 2022 after realizing that the platform can be a perfect spot for expression. She decided to utilize the platform by repurposing her YouTube content into shortform TilTok with the hope to gather more traffic back to her YouTube channel.

A few years back, Susu had a perception that TikTok is designed only for entertainment which she felt she cannot subscribe to. Knowing that TikTok was said to have a bad influence across Northern Nigeria.

“I have been posting for more than five months now and to be honest I saw massive traffic. I like the way the app pushes your videos to your target and specific audience,” Susu told The Moveee.

Susu’s contents feature personal development, tourism, and culture. However, she admitted that the quality of TikTok is determined by the types of content one consumes. “As much as there are bad content creators, there are also good content creators,” she says. “I will always urge my fellow Northern Nigeria’s content creators to try and utilize the app in sharing reasonable and educating content even if it’s in the form of entertainment, for it not to be boring.”

To change the negative narratives framed on northern Nigeria’s young women on TikTok, Susu captured that it’s like the Hausa saying which translates as “we cannot all be the same.” She also concludes that “I try as much as possible to share contents that I won’t be ashamed to watch in the next 5 to 10 years or for my kids to watch in the future, and the aim of all we are doing is to make an impact through our videos, which is positive.”

Susu, who garnered over a thousand followers in just a few months, also finds joy in sharing B-Roll behind-the-scenes and voice-over videos.

Ikleemah Babangida

Ikleemah started her photography journey in 2018. During those years, she enjoyed making Instagram reels of her works until 2022 when TikTok became a part of her journey in sharing her photography content. The experience was incredible as her content kept going viral and attracting teeming followers.

In documenting the beautiful and yet positive stories of Northern Nigeria through the lens of a digital camera lies Ikleemah’s passion. “We should not wait for outsiders to come and tell our stories, we are supposed to do that ourselves in a better way based on our experience and perspective,” expressed Ikleemah.

Ikleemah’s daily routine is similar to that of other creatives in the region: waking up early, walking out (exercise), showering, eating breakfast, and then going to work.

“It’s after closing from work that I design a schedule for my photography works,” Ikleemah says. “I go onto the street, capture moments, document stories, especially on weekends. It’s time-consuming and stressful but I enjoy doing it.”

TikTok as a social media platform has provided Ikleemah a space to build a personal brand not only as a photographer but a visual storyteller who tells the positive stories of Arewa to other people far away.

“I feel the need to be on TikTok to share amazing and positive content while telling the stories of rural people, environment, and the problems surrounding them through my lens,” concluded Ikleemah on how she’s changing the narrative through her works.

Halima Adam

Halima who owns a make-up brand — heexy’s_touch — started TikTok with the idea to follow the works of other make-up artists and that motivated her to share her works.

She believes that TikTok has a massive audience where sharing your content connects you to potential clients and people who can help to grow your career.

“In the beginning — I thought people would not build interest in my make-up works and tutorials, but the reactions I got encouraged me to keep doing more. I’m also happy to gather over 16,000 followers in a short time,” Halima explained.

To Halima, sharing negative content and insulting people online aren’t worth one’s efforts.

“Young women are losing their reputation to stupid trends on TikTok,” she says. “Whenever I come across any lady sharing negative content, I caution her to be responsible in using the platform for good, sharing and monetizing her talents.”

Shifting The Narratives

Salahudeen Muhammed, a social media expert and content creator believes the works of these young female creators can make a positive impact in the society by changing the already existing narrative the Arewa community is having towards everyone creating content on the platform from bad to good.

“Already we have enough bad influencers on the platform. But these emerging female creators can change how our sisters are being influenced,” Salahudeen says. “They will serve as an inspiration to our younger ones, pointing out to them that you don’t have to sell your body to gain recognition. You don’t have to dance before you become known. You can achieve greater things on the platform by simply being a good person.”

“These ladies can completely change the game of online content marketing in our society. My people are still left behind. Most are still ignorant of how to leverage platforms like TikTok to their business advantages. Which in turn proves us to lose a lot from this. With their effort, our female business owners can be exposed to this. Which is a greater impact,” he added.

The strategy every young female creator should adopt in building and promoting a decent Arewa TikTok community, Salahudeen who is the founder of Deen Creatives advised, is investing in the platform. “They should invest to learn the proper ways of consistently providing value to their followers. With value comes trust and influence. Once their followers trust them, then they’ll be the drivers of their community, hence making it a beneficial one.”

Salahudeen also informed them to avoid toxic people who can ruin their good strategies. “People will insult and say bad things in your comment section even if you share good content with them. These categories of people are much on TikTok and they target females the most. Learn to avoid them.”

“When you offer good things to people it’ll only attract good people to you,” concludes Salahudeen.

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