Top global TikToks of 2021: Defiant Afghan singer, Kenya comic, walnut-cracking elbow
A Kenyan cracks jokes about her cash outflow. In Canada, an Inuit woman gets traditional face tattoos. A Pakistani martial arts champ cracks walnuts with his elbow.
These videos are just a handful of the international gems on the social media platform TikTok. While much of the content on the app may seem silly or entertaining, many videos — which can last up to 3 minutes — also carry deeper meaning. For some, the clips are an act of resistance or a way to represent their culture.
And sure it’s a cliche, but TikTok proves it’s a small world after all. “A lot of the content on it – such as dancing, music and humor – can transcend geographic boundaries and language,” says Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon professor who researches digital trends. That kind of appeal helped make TikTok the most visited website in 2021, he says — ahead of Google.
Here are some of our favorite global TikTok videos and creators of 2021.
Comedian (and 15-time chess champion!) Elsa Majimbo‘s shtick on TikTok is that she’ll say something (mostly in English, sometimes in Swahili) put on sunglasses, laugh maniacally … then end her seconds-long video by … crunching a handful of chips. It may sound nonsensical, but viewers love it — the 20-year-old has more than 1 million followers on TikTok as well as 2.4 million on Instagram.
And the videos aren’t just gags — a smart current of satire runs through her routines. In one of her most popular videos from 2021, she muses on the haves and have nots as she cackles into the camera: “If I spend money, I’m paying taxes. So I’m building my country. It’s called being patriotic.”
She also likes joking about actually loving — not hating — the isolation of pandemic life. It was the topic of a New York Times profile in 2020. “Ever since corona started we’ve all been in isolation and I miss no one,” she quipped in a video. “Why am I missing you? There is no reason for me to miss you.” READ MORE