Mixed-race, queer artist Mojo Juju’s new single ‘Native Tongue’ is a declaration: ethnic identity is not in the eye of the beholder—it’s what you make it.
Born Mojo Ruiz de Luzuriaga in regional NSW to a Filipino father and a mother with Indigenous roots, Juju spent the first half of her life answering a question she hated being asked: “What percentage Indigenous/Filipino are you?”
Today, Juju tells The Feed what she will proudly tell anyone: “I’m 100% of everything.” It might not make sense, but for Juju—a queer woman of colour—neither does trying to quantify someone’s identity. And that’s what her scorching new single Native Tongue is all about.
I don’t speak my father’s native tongue.
I was born under the Southern sun.
I don’t know where I belong.
The Native Tongue video is a single shot that opens on men in jumpsuits (dance troupe DJUKI MALA) walking in lockstep, eyes forward, hands behind their back, humming. The allusion to a chain gang is obvious—and powerful. Signing in native tongue unnerved Colonial-era slave masters who were concerned it could be a form of covert communication.
This short doco looks at the experience of fair-skinned Indigenous Australians.
Swaddled in a blingy feather coat, Juju stands small but proud amongst these men. And while she’s reluctant to settle on any single interpretation of the video, she will say that “black America informs every conversation we have about race in pop culture.”
My great granddaddy was Wiradjuri.
My father came here from the Philippine.
It's where I live, it's where I wanna be.
But you make me feel so ill at ease.
Juju tells The Feed that her hometown, Dubbo, was “not a very diverse place.” That may be the case today, but many of Australia’s regional centres were founded by migrant communities; like the Chinese miners who arrived in Bendigo, Victoria, in the 1860s, or the Sikh farmers who settled on the New South Wales coast before Federation and became barons of the fruit industry.
The opening lines of Native Tongue are softly-spoken, almost apologetic. But as the song builds (with backing vocals by Pacific Island choir Pasefika Vitoria) it’s clear that Juju is over being bashful and polite: “I will not apologise for taking up this space.” Interestingly, this is also a defence used by Australian white nationalists who claim that celebrating multiculturalism has made them feel unwelcome in the only place they can call home.
Watch our full interview with Mojo:
'Native Tongue' is the title track of Mojo Juju's upcoming album available August 24 through ABC Music/Universal.