Controlling the Metaverse. Courtesy of AST, 2022.
Filled with virtual versions of people, events and objects, the Metaverse offers endless new opportunities to reframe the world around us. Yupungathi and Meriam woman Vanessa Lee-Ah Mat and Darumbal, Biri Gubi, Gadigal and Yuin woman Bibi Barba are now exploring how this new world can be brought together with the world’s oldest living culture. They have recently released a discussion paper detailing their aim of creating an Indigenous Cultural Embassy in the Metaverse (NIT, 2022).
How will it work?
Setting up an Indigenous Cultural Embassy in the Metaverse is a way of ensuring political and cultural processes that acknowledge Indigenous peoples’ intellectual property are established from the beginning. The Embassy will connect Indigenous culture with these new technologies. Mat and Barba see this process as putting value on First Nations’ lore so that it can become economically empowering for Indigenous peoples (NIT, 2022).
They are now in the process of setting up an independent entity with First Nations ownership and governance, to negotiate with stakeholders and establish and run the operations of this unique project.The governance will ensure everything goes to Indigenous communities and non-for-profit organisations. The hope is that a cultural embassy will prevent colonialism from happening in the virtual realm, as currently the metaverse is essentially a virtual land grab based on privilege and who has the best access to virtual games (CoinTelegraph, 2022). In Barba and Mat’s discussion, they wrote about how this may affect Indigenous people:
“Virtual land that is being created as part of imaginary worlds is also being sold with neither recognition of the cultural significance that ownership of land entails for First Nations peoples, nor acknowledgement of the spiritual connection that exists between a person, the virtual land and their participation in it.”
Companies around the world are investing millions in virtual reality. Courtesy of ABC News, 2022.
Indigenous culture in the Metaverse
The connection between this ancient culture and the Metaverse may seem unclear at first. However, for Lee-Ah Mat and Bibi Barba, the link is very logical as “The virtual world does impact the physical world. The Metaverse mirrors the Earth, using the Earth as the mirror in the gaming realm. The virtual world plays out features from the physical world” (Matt, 2022). Indigenous lore explains how the past, present and emerging futures are connected, and the Metaverse is going to form an important part of the future.
The Indigenous Cultural Embassy is currently in its design phase. It will be a hexagonal dome providing “multiple doors for many conversations.” They have received offers to donate some plots of land, and hope to establish virtual embassies on Metaverse platforms including Decentraland and Sandbox (CoinTelegraph, 2022).
It is wonderful to see Indigenous entrepreneurs embracing these new advances in technology, and finding ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture can be embedded into this new world. We hope that the establishment of the Indigenous Cultural Embassy can help ensure Indigenous culture, and land is respected in our new world. As said by Lee-Ah Mat (NIT, 2022):
“We need to bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into this virtual land and we need to make sure that Indigenous culture globally is not forgotten.”
If you’d like some further reading about Indigenous involvement in the world digital world of blockchain, check out our previous post: