Young Zimbabwean Artists Mookomba blocked Visa by European Authorities
Music events and gatherings across Europe are important global villages - uniting local and international artists, providing intercultural learning opportunities, promoting peace and respect.
Yet power lies in the hands of those deciding on visas to dictate which artists, and from which countries, are welcome behind the walls of fortress Europe to let their voices be heard.
Visa obstructions to the young Zimbabwean group Mokoomba in the wake of their European tour raises major concerns over the future of cultural diversity on the European stage.
In the lead up to their European Tour, they were dubbed The Next Generation of Zimbabwean Hope
in celebration of their incredible talent and story of diversity and perseverance, the group coming from one of Zimbabwe's smallest rural villages, and singing in Tonga, a language foreign to even the majority Ndebele and Shona speaking population of Zimbabwe.
"Difficult, inflexible, and un-transparent visa procedures have led the music community to a crisis point. Many concert organizers are no longer able to take the risk in booking artists from countries where visas are required, knowing what issues may arise later when artists are blocked behind borders" - Blasko Smilevski, JMI Secretary General. "It is not difficult to guess which countries' artists will be cut out of the picture."
In 2006, the European Community signed the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, committing Europe to develop "measures in developed countries with a view to facilitating access to their territory for cultural activities from developing countries," yet administrative procedures have yet to reflect these good intentions.
Band leader Abundance Mutori, whose songs speak of social ills, the HIV pandemic, love and a Zimbabwean nation determined never to give up hope said "we believe the potential for Tonga music is still to be explored and will one day reach the world at large."
The Mokoomba tour is part of the Music Crossroads program, the largest youth empowerment program in Southern Africa, supported and funded by the Government authorities in Norway, Spain and Sweden. "It is an ironic tragedy that Mokoomba has been bared from taking the stage in countries who helped create the dream" said Blasko Smilevski.
Don't let visa regulations restrict cultural exchange between Europe and the rest of the world >> TAKE ACTION NOW
We the undersigned are discouraged by the news that Jeunesses Musicales International, under the auspices of the Music Crossroads program, has been forced to cancel the European tour of young Zimbabwean artists 'Mokoomba', due to barriers in obtaining visas.
In order to realize the objective, as defined by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions and ratified by the European Community of adopting "measures in developed countries with a view to facilitating access to their territory for cultural activities from developing countries," we urge you to reexamine visa procedures for artists from developing countries.
We endorse the recommendations outlined in the 'White Paper on visa issues, Europe & Artists mobility' published by Freemuse, ELMF and ECA and supported by Jeunesses Musicales International calling to/for:
- Ensure that all embassies, consulates or other representations are well informed; service minded and follow harmonized procedures, guidelines, standards, papers, documents etc.
- Ensure clear procedures and require that explanations for refusal of a visa must be given when all the procedures are respected, in order to make it possible to enter an appeal in due time.
- Handling of artist visa matters exclusively by the cultural attach%uFFFD at point of application and not via reception centres in the regular visa department.
- Investigate the possibilities of 'world wide recognition' of touring artists' passports.
- Ensure a procedure that benefits artists and performers that have worked and/or performed within the EU/Schengen area before, so they don't have to repeat all of the application procedure each time.
- Initiate a process whereby a 'certification system' of European festivals and tour organisers may ensure that these are well established, credible and entitled to respectful and fast handling by visa offices.
- Finally we would like to call on you to establish a forum involving practitioners, agents and relevant organizations in order to develop quick and practical solutions.
We sincerely hope for your attention in resolving these issues impeding the cultural exchange between Europe and the rest of the world.