m.i.a’s afropunk appearance has been cancelled
The decision comes after ongoing discussion around the artist's statements regarding the Black Lives Matter movement.
Over the weekend, organizers of AFROPUNK took to Twitter to announce that M.I.A would no longer be headlining the London leg of their September festival. The musician's inclusion on the bill was already debated within the AFROPUNK community, as some questioned whether she was representative of the festival's wider beliefs.
These doubts were born from comments M.I.A had previously made about the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with ES Magazine she said, "It's interesting that in America the problem you're allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter." Adding, "It's not a new thing to me — it's what Lauryn Hill was saying in the 1990s, or Public Enemy in the 1980s. Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That's a more interesting question."
Many felt the comments were insensitive, but the musician stood by her remarks. Although on her track "Poc That Still a Ryda" she made her support of the movement clear, rapping: "I'm here for every color, including Black Lives Matter."
Despite her insistence that her message was about inclusivity, not seeking to compare the issues faced by different communities, the criticism around her presence at the London festival persisted. Initially organizers came to her defense, explaining why they felt she was a welcome addition to the line-up. "To us, the fact that M.I.A.'s comments sparked dialogue about a global view of the Black struggle is not a failing," they explained. They went on to say that while they welcomed the debate around her inclusion, they saw it as an opportunity to explore the intersection between how "the Black American experience and the American construct of race intersects with rampant anti-Muslim rhetoric and the crushing refugee crisis she was bringing to light."
But in their recent statement, organizers explain the collective decision to remove M.I.A from the bill: "After discussing the situation with the artist and the community, a decision was agreed upon by all involved that M.I.A will no longer headline AFROPUNK London."
The response to this decision has been mixed; some agreed they had collectively made the right choice, while others lamented buying a ticket expressly to see M.I.A and questioned if the decision was in opposition of their ongoing commitment to foster progressive and challenging dialogue between people.
For now, the festival has promised that a new headliner will be announced this week. And considering all the buzz around M.I.A's new album and possible retirement from music, we wouldn't be surprised if she announces a tour, or at least a fresh set of shows, soon too.
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Wolfgang Tillmans [The Declaration Issue, No. 255, 2005]