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Influencer Nas Daily accused of exploiting indigenous Filipino artist

Palestinian-Israeli vlogger likened to "colonisers" for contested contract with 104-year-old traditional tattoo artist
Louise Mabulo (left) accused Nusseir Yassin (right), better known as Nas Daily, of belittling and exploiting her culture (Louise Mabulo/Facebook)

Vlogger Nas Daily has been accused of “exploiting” a 104-year-old tattoo artist and using discriminatory language against people in the Philippines.

Nuseir Yassin, better known by his social media name Nas Daily, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who describes himself as “Palestinian-Israeli”. 

He has amassed tens of millions of followers across multiple social media platforms since he started making one minute video clips from around the world in 2016. 

Yassin came under scrutiny last week for offering a traditional tattooing course by iconic artist Whang-od.

Whang-od, who is from the Kalinga province of the Philippines, is considered to be the oldest and last mambabatok (indigenous Filipino tattooist). She has tattooed the Butbut people of the Kalinga ethnic group since she was 15 and now continues to practice the ancient art form on local tourists. 

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Nas Academy, a learning platform set up by Yassin, created a course in which the “104-year-old legend will reveal all her rituals, tools and methods for making traditional tattoos”. 

However, last week Whang-od’s grandniece took to Facebook to denounce the course. 

“WARNING!!! Whang Od Academy is a scam. My grandmother did not sign any contract with @NasDaily to do any academy. Some people are taking advantage of our culture. PLEASE HELP US STOP this disrespect to the legacy of Apo Whang Od and the Butbot Tribe,” Gracia Palicas wrote.

The course has since been removed from the Nas Academy platform. 

Yassin responded by posting a video of the 104-year-old affixing her thumbprint to a document, as apparent proof that she consented to set up the Whang-Od Academy. 

“This is the clearest evidence that it is not a scam and achieved the consent of her and her immediate family,” he wrote. 

“Everybody was compensated for their time, and for every sale, the Whang-Od Academy generates, most of it went directly to her and her family. We just provided the technology and the marketing.” 

The supposed contract is now under investigation by the Philippines' National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. 

'Same strategy as colonisers'

Following the fallout over the Whang-od course, Filipina entrepreneur and farmer Louise Mabulo accused Yassin of exploiting her culture. 

Mabulo is the founder of the Cacao Project, an initiative that aims to combat deforestation by empowering farmers. Her efforts won her the 2019 United Nations award for “Young Champion of the Earth for Asia and the Pacific”. 

She said that when Yassin went to visit her project two years ago to make a one-minute video, he belittled farmers and used discriminatory language.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Mabulo said that the influencer mocked the local accent, called Filipinos “poor” and accused farmers of not being “clickable viewable content”.   

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“I should have known better, that this man was exploitative and fuelling a neocolonialist narrative using our need for foreign validation,” she wrote. 

“I’ve stayed silent because I knew that I would face backlash for calling out on this man … And now, he has overstepped and had the audacity to do the same to Whang-od and the Butbot Tribe.”

The entrepreneur likened Yassin’s video of the centenarian supposedly signing a contract to “the same strategy colonisers used to mislead indigenous people to sell off their land”. 

The Palestinian-Israeli responded by denying the discrimination claims, and alleging that The Cacao Project was “not true on the ground”. 

“Once we arrived at your plantation, once we saw the village and talked to the farmers, we came to the conclusion that there is no story here. That the awards on the Internet are just that...awards,” he claimed. 

'Intentions misunderstood' 

In response to Middle East Eye’s request for comment, Nas Daily shared an existing statement addressing the people of the Philippines. 

“Sadly, some of our intentions have been misunderstood, as we can see with Whang-Od Academy. But our goal has always been to help people become teachers, with their input and consent,” it said. 

“We are committed to working with the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People) to ensure that all proper processes are followed. 

"Meanwhile, we will be pausing our operations in the Philippines to focus on strengthening our processes around how we collaborate with our partners.” 

This is not the first time Nas Daily has come under criticism. 

Last year, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement called for a boycott of his search for 80 new Arab content creators, claiming that the training programme was a cover for normalisation with Israel. 

Yassin’s videos have been frequently accused of whitewashing Israeli occupation and presenting both sides as equal.

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