Paris Suspends Artistic Cooperation with Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, Drawing Outrage in the French Cultural Community

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A profound sense of astonishment has swept through the French cultural background, particularly among professionals in the performing arts sector. State-subsidized cultural institutions are now compelled to suspend all collaborations with Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. This abrupt directive has dealt a heavy blow to artists from these African nations. In a terse letter from the Directorate-General for Cultural Affairs (Drac), the heads of state-funded cultural entities in France were instructed to “suspend, until further notice, all cooperation with the following countries: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso.”

As of August 7th, France has ceased issuing new visas to citizens of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, with no exceptions made for artists. The instructions, emanating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are unequivocal: “All cooperation projects conducted by your institutions or services with institutions or individuals from these three countries must be immediately and unconditionally suspended,” as stated in the message. “All financial support must also be suspended, including through French entities, such as associations, for example. Similarly, no invitations to any nationals from these countries should be extended. From this day forth, France will not issue visas to citizens of these three countries under any circumstances, until further notice.”

A Departure from France’s Cultural Outreach Philosophy

This unprecedented measure encompasses national drama and choreographic centers as well as national stages, sending shockwaves through the cultural scene. Bruno Lobé, Vice President of the National Union of Artistic and Cultural Enterprises (Syndeac) and Director of Le Manège, the national stage in Reims, commented, “Everyone seems somewhat perplexed by this.” He further noted, “The message was sent to all ministries, including the Ministry of Culture, which forwarded it to cultural institutions without explanation. If this is upheld, we will strongly oppose it, as it places artists from these three countries in an untenable position.”

In a statement, the syndicate expressed its outrage at the “coercive” tone of this directive and criticized a policy of “banning the movement of artists and their works, which has never been the norm in any other international crisis.” Denouncing a major political misstep, Syndeac reminded that France has historically continued to invite artists from countries with which it had disputes. “We continued to invite Russian artists, many of whom disagreed with what was happening in Ukraine. Clearly, spaces for dialogue and artistic freedom should have been maintained,” emphasized Bruno Lobé. He characterized tSpaces as “incomprehensible” and one that would represent “a departure from France’s cultural outreach philosophy abroad.”


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