ENTERTAINMENT

“A brown woman on a Mardi Gras stage is in some ways a political statement:” Why Wafia’s Mardi Gras debut is a monumental performance for the singer

"I can't long for something I haven't felt."
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Before Wafia heads home from Los Angeles after two years, she has a Louisiana style crab, final hugs with friends, and a PCR waiting for her.

In between, she’s packing and finishing the final hundred pages of Girl, Woman, Other before coming to Sydney to perform at Mardi Gras.

Watch: Wafia announcing she is performing at Mardi Gras.

“I’m very stoked to be coming back and getting the Australian sun,” she tells Girlfriend.

The 28-year-old singer-songwriter is headlining TikTok’s float, and it’s a milestone moment for both her and fans as she’s attending the festival for the first time.

“I had some TikTok moments with my songs in the past. So it felt like a really natural thing to partner up,” she shares. “I actually had never been to Mardi Gras. So, this is such an honour.”

Though she can’t reveal the surprises in store for fans on the big day, we can expect “rainbows,” “inflatables,” and her signature psychedelic fem energy with a subverted campy twist. Plus, she will be dancing for the first time in her career.

“These are the moments in my career that I look back on, and I’m like, wow, I really pushed myself. I think this will be that,” she says.

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Wafia is performing at Mardi Gras for the first time. (Credit: Instagram)

As an Iraqi-Syrian and queer woman, Wafia’s float and performance at the festival are an opportunity she feels honoured to be a part of, especially considering the unarguable power of representation.

“I think in the same way we strive to represent the entire LGBTQ spectrum and gender and sexuality, I think we need to do the same for skin colour and culture and other parts of our identity,” she explains.

“Growing up I didn’t have many places to look for that [representation]. So, when opportunities like this comes my way, I feel like even more of a responsibility to step up into those spaces.

“Because even within my own family, that has made ripple effects. I think that to just be a brown woman, a brown woman on a Mardi Gras stage, is in some ways a political statement just by me. I think it just makes me want to lean into it more.”

When Girlfriend asks her if there is an element of burden that comes with the politicisation of identities, Wafia simply replies, “I’ve never had the luxury of it not to be [politicised]. So, I can’t tell you what any other feels like. I can’t long for something I haven’t felt.”

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“I can’t tell you what any other feels like. I can’t long for something I haven’t felt.” (Credit: Instagram)

Wafia floated onto the Australian music scene with serene energy that brought a pastel softness to our playlists, but there’s also that burst of enlightening self-assuredness.

On one hand, hits like I’m Good and Pick Me are infectious, uplifting anthems, and on the other, her deep cuts like How To Lose A Friend and 83 Days pull at the heartstrings.

“When I’m writing music, it’s not until after I’ve written it and lived with it for three, four weeks that I’m like ‘oh, there’s a gap [in the market],” she explains.

“When I’m writing something, I’m like, okay, I need to process these feelings. I need to like see this story through.”

One song in particular touched on an experience that isn’t written about enough. 

“When I wrote How To Lose A Friend, I think that it was something I felt so strongly and that hurt me more. I was going through a break up at the same time. And this hurt me more.

“Like just to this morning, I almost teared up thinking about that particular friend and returning back to Australia and not being able to see them again. But like a break up does not even begin to touch that wound,” she shares.

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“I was going through a breakup at the same time. And this hurt me more.” (Credit: Instagram)

As vulnerable as it is to put out such deep music, Wafia has developed a process to help her let go.

“By the time you guys hear a song that I’ve worked on and put out, it can be up to two years since I wrote that, not to say that I don’t connect with it anymore, but there has to be an element of letting go when you’re giving people what you’ve been working on,” she explains.

“At least for me, it’s not very healthy for me to hold on. I have this ritual of anytime a song comes out, like the night of I’ll go for a drive and or a walk and listen to it a million times before it comes out. Because that to me is like the last time that it’s actually mine.”

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Wafia is getting ready to release a new era of music. (Credit: Instagram)

While exploring life in LA, the Brisbane native has been creating new music, and fans have a lot to look forward to.

She tells Girlfriend that she’s “tapping into something” she hasn’t before, which has felt “more creative” and “more freeing.”

Although fans will have to wait and discover what her new chapter will sound like, she sights indie psychedelic, pop, country, and “a sprinkling of whimsy” as references.

Wafia has clearly honed her craft in a way fans have yet to experience, and after a recent “breakthrough” in the studio, she even decided to fast track a song.

But as much as the air of mystery is exciting, she is happy to share details about a song she wrote inspired by her “mother’s love” after two years apart.

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Fans can watch her performance on TikTok live. (Credit: TikTok)

“There was this one day where I came home in LA, and I had a fruit bowl, and the fruit was mouldy. I had just left it, and I just realised, oh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen fruit really mould before. Mother always like took care of those things.

“If a fruit was going bad, she would eat it. Or she would cut it off and peel it and give it to me in its most beautiful, presentable form. And I wrote a song about that,” she says.

We can’t wait to hear what she puts out next at Girlfriend, but until then, fans can catch Wafia’s Mardi Gras performance on TikTok Live from 7 pm (AEDT).

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