British-Japanese artist says that not being able to participate in British Award shows is a form of ‘border control’
British-Japanese artist Rina Sawayama has accused the Mercury Prize of creating a form of ‘control of borers’ due to strict rules for those eligible to participate.
29-year-old Rina, who was born in Japan but has lived in London since childhood, has expressed her grief that she was ‘not British enough’ to participate in the Mercury Prize or the BRITs because of a nationality clause.
Both the Brit and Mercury Awards, both flagships of the British Music Prize, have clauses stating that artists must have a British or Irish passport to be eligible to participate as a British artist.
As her album SAWAYAMA is hailed by Elton John as the ‘strongest of the year’, Rina is not eligible for consideration.
To talk with ViceRina called the rules “problematic” and urged the shows to redefine what “Britannia” is in their rules so that people without British or Irish passports can enter.
British-Japanese artist Rina Sawayama (pictured) says British Award shows create a form of ‘borer control’ with their strict rules on who can participate
Rina, pictured during London Fashion Week, insisted that she lived “most of her life” in Britain and expressed her pain at “not being British enough” to participate in the awards ceremonies
“If art awards create their own kind of version of border control around their suitability, I think that’s really problematic.”
Take to Twitter yesterday, Rina insisted that she lived “most of her life” in Britain and expressed her pain that she “was not British enough” to participate in the awards ceremonies.
‘I’ve lived here for 25 YEARS (most of my life), but I’m not British enough to even qualify for the 2 biggest UK Music awards. I just want to dream the same dream as everyone else. ‘
Under the terms of the Mercury Prize Limited, artists are considered to be of British or Irish nationality if they hold a passport and / or a birth certificate for the United Kingdom or Ireland.
Rina has unlimited leave to stay (ILR) meaning she does not have the right of residence in the UK but is admitted to the UK without any time limit for her stay and is free to work or study.
Rina, pictured during London Fashion Week, has unlimited leave to stay (ILR) meaning she does not have the right to reside in the UK but is admitted to the UK with no time limit on her stay
Part of the entry process consists of sending proof of citizenship, such as a scanned passport, to the organizers.
The Mercury Prize rules also state that bands or groups are eligible if half or more of the signed members are British or Irish.
However, if 30 percent of the group are British or Irish and the majority have their primary residence in the UK or Ireland, they are allowed to enter.
Rina called the decision “heartbreaking” and said it felt “different” not to be included in the awards ceremonies.
The artist urged UK awards ceremonies to reconsider what they describe as ‘Britannia’ and to change the rules regarding indefinite leave.
“What I only want is that all awards look at indefinite leave and the rules change to what British means to them.”
Rina, who attended the BAFTA Awards last year, was born in Niigata, but grew up in London from an early age and would only visit Japan to attend summer school
The BRIT awards also have a nationality clause stating that they are eligible for the UK Solo Artists categories or other UK categories, artists must be UK passport holders.
A BPI spokesperson commented, “Both the BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize want to be as complete as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly being revised.”
Rina was born in Niigata, but she grew up in London from an early age and would only visit Japan to go to summer school.
In 2019, Rina received a grant from BPI, which provides targeted grants to UK artists who have the elements for international success, but who need additional support to seize opportunities outside the UK.
According to Rina, she could enter the shows with dual citizenship, but her native country does not allow dual citizenship.
She explained to the publication that while she has considered getting a British passport instead of a Japanese passport, she doesn’t want to sever ties with her hometown, where the rest of her family still lives.