Barkaa withdraws from Sydney Festival due to Israeli Embassy funding

The rapper is one of several artists and organisations who have pulled out from the festival due to the $20,000 funding partnership

Barkaa has withdrawn from her previously-planned events as part of Sydney Festival due to the festival’s $20,000 partnership with the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.

The Malyangapa and Barkindji rapper announced her decision on Instagram earlier today (December 23), sharing a call from Artists Against Apartheid to support the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement and demand Sydney Festival divest from the funding partnership.

“I stand with Palestine always and I’m pulling out of all events associated with [Sydney Festival],” Barkaa captioned the post. “We as a nation live in a time where we should know better, so we should do better.”

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Barkaa was on the programme for two events as part of Sydney Festival, which is set to run between January 6 and 30 next month. NME has reached out to Sydney Festival for comment on the rapper’s decision to withdraw from the festival.

Sydney Festival has attracted significant criticism for its $20,000 funding link with the Israeli Embassy, which will be used to stage a performance by Sydney Dance Company of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Decadance. Naharin himself supports the BDS movement.

The movement, inspired by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, began in 2005 as a means of urging “nonviolent pressure” on Israel to comply with what it argues are its international law obligations, including “ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and committing to full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.

One of the methods the BDS movement encourages is a cultural boycott. “Refraining from participating in cultural events in Israel or in Israel-funded activities around the world is the most important expression of support the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel,” reads its website.

Barkaa is one of several artists and collectives who have withdrawn from the festival as a result of their refusal to sever funding ties with the Embassy.

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Others include comedian Nazeem Hussain, writer and academic Amy McQuire, South Asian dance company Bindi Bosses, Bankstown Poetry Slam, Arabic music ensemble Ensemble Dandana, rapper Nooky and musician Marcus Whale.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a letter was recently sent to the Sydney Festival board by a coalition that includes the Arab Australian Federation, Greens for Palestine and Jews Against the Occupation Sydney, demanding the festival refuse any monetary support from the Embassy or association with the State of Israel.

“Sydney Festival’s partnership with the Embassy of Israel and the use of the Israeli Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs logo in festival promotional material creates a culturally unsafe environment for artists and festival attendees of Arab background, particularly those who are Palestinian,” the letter reads.

“We ask that you seriously reconsider the Sydney Festival’s association with the State of Israel and stand with the Palestinian people and with international law by refusing to accept any sponsorships from or collaborations with Israel until such time as Palestine is free.”

In a response to the coalition, board chair David Kirk said they the group’s demands had “set in motion important dialogue within the Sydney Festival” but that the festival was “not in a position” to end their partnership with the Israeli Embassy or support the BDS movement.

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