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Visas for Artists | A process “too complicated”, deplores Nuits d’Afrique

The Nuits d’Afrique festival was to close on Sunday to the sound of energizing music by Yemi Alade. Finally, the Nigerian singer-songwriter’s show, which has more than 400 million views on YouTube, will not take place. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada refused the visa application of the artist and his group.

Posted at 12:00 p.m.

Veronique Larocque

Veronique Larocque
The Press

Suzanne Rousseau, general manager of the Festival international Nuits d’Afrique, hoped until the last moment for a happy ending to this bureaucratic puzzle. On Thursday, the news unfortunately fell: the rising star of Afropop Yemi Alade had not obtained the coveted visa.

The festival team has however done everything possible to ensure that the headliner of the closing show can be present in Montreal on Sunday, assures the general manager. She assiduously followed the visa application made in Nairobi, Kenya. She secured the support of MP Rachel Bendayan in the process, as the organization is now accustomed to doing in similar cases.

At the beginning of July, the request of Yemi Alade and his group was refused. “On July 12, we resubmitted a request with his agent, explains Suzanne Rousseau. We asked to re-evaluate Yemi’s file so that she can come alone. The verdict remained unchanged.

In the United States, but not in Canada

The general manager of Nuits d’Afrique does not understand why the Nigerian artist obtained an American visa, but not a Canadian one.

The reason given for refusing Yemi Alade and his group?

It really is a standard reason they write. They say they have to prove that they are financially strong enough to show that they are going to return to their country of origin and that they are not going to stay in Canada. These are artists who are used to touring. It’s a bit ironic.

Suzanne Rousseau, general manager of Nuits d’Afrique

Mme Rousseau underlines that for five or six years, the process for obtaining visas is much more arduous. “We have to support the follow-ups with our federal MP because it’s too slow, there are too many steps, it’s complicated,” she laments.

According to the director, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada would like to receive visa applications six months before the start of the festival. “It’s ridiculous”, she breathes, pointing out that the programming is not even stopped at this point.

“I would like the festivals that receive international groups to be able to sit down with the government to find solutions for the future for the arrival of artists. »

The absence of Yemi Alade forced the organization to quickly develop a plan B. “We had to find an artist who interests the same target audience, who represents African youth”, specifies the general manager. It is finally Sampa The Great who will close the event.

Slowness

This year, other festivals also had to cancel the presence of artists due to visa problems. This is particularly the case for members of the Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha, which was to perform at the Festival d’été de Québec. According to Samantha McKinley, vice-president of communications, they were unable to obtain their visa within the prescribed time frame. She also remarks that “this year, most visas came in at the last minute. […] It was less fluid than in previous years.

In May, the Festival international de musique contemporaine de Victoriaville also had to cancel the presence of a Ukrainian group. One of the members of Dakh Daughters, a refugee in Paris due to the war, did not manage to obtain her visa in time… even though her request was accepted.

“The rules are very strict. Everything works according to an unshakable procedure, ”says Michel Levasseur, general and artistic director of the festival.

To get your hands on the visa, you have to send the passport by post and make an appointment with the embassy, ​​he explains. A procedure that can take up to 30 days, according to the information he has received. Too long a delay for the Ukrainian artist, who made her request a month before the festival. Even going to the embassy, ​​she was unable to obtain her visa.

“It was very stressful for everyone. Very unfortunate also for these artists who try to continue to live from their art, ”laments Mr. Levasseur.

For its part, the Emerging Music Festival, which will be held from 1er on September 4 in Rouyn-Noranda, cross your fingers that you won’t encounter any such obstacles. “It’s a stress we have, that’s for sure,” says Andrée-Anne Laroche, programming coordinator. She confirms that some international artists who will perform on stage do not yet have their visa.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to an interview request from The Press.

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