Grace Jones has replaced M.I.A. as the headline act at the inaugural Afropunk London festival.
The festival, which launched in Brooklyn in 2005, is set to take place in the UK for the first time at London’s Alexandra Palace on September 24. Preparations for the event were rocked, however, by the Sri Lankan rapper having to be removed from the festival bill after comments she made on the Black Lives Matter movement back in April attracted criticism.
Announcing the line-up change on Twitter, Afropunk confirmed that the 68-year-old singer would take M.I.A.’s place at the top of the bill.
— AFROPUNK (@afropunk) July 19, 2016
Jones’ last previous UK festival performance was at Love Supreme Festival in Sussex earlier this month, which had been billed as an exclusive UK performance from the singer.
M.I.A. was dropped from Afropunk after telling ES Magazine in April that “It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter. 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.”
She latter clarified those comments, denying that she was trying to attack the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’m not Muslim,” she wrote. “My question was, on American platforms what do they allow you to stand up for in 2016?”
But by then her comments had attracted quite a backlash. Some fans threatened to boycott the festival due to her comments, with MIA later tweeting: “If pulling the show saves the cause and lives then that’s what I’ll do.”
Festival organisers originally released a statement defending the rapper, maintaining that she was still a part of the line-up. But on Sunday they released another statement, which confirmed that M.I.A wouldn’t play Afropunk.
“AFROPUNK has always stood side by side with the thousands of people globally who are involved with our events each year, from the fans attending an AFROPUNK showcase for the first time, to the headline artists playing for capacity crowds on our main festival stages,” read the latest statement, as Spin reports.
It continued: “A key part of the AFROPUNK ethos has always been educating one another, breaking down boundaries and sparking conversation about race, gender, religion, sex, culture and everything that makes life worth living.
“This exchange has meant receiving wisdom, as well as imparting it in the most respectful way possible, with the participation of our entire community of fans, creators and artists. This community is something we are incredibly proud of, and this community will always be a priority for us.
“We are excited and honoured to do our first AFROPUNK Festival in London and want to do it right. 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.”