Rachel Chinouriri
Life & Arts

Zim artist boycotts US festival Gaza war links

RISING songbird Rachel Chinouriri, a United Kingdom-based artist of Zimbabwean descent, has boycotted the Southwest (SXSW) in Texas in protest over the festival’s links to the US Army which is supporting Israel in the war in Gaza.

The singer-songwriter, who was born on 1 November 1998 shortly after her family moved to that country, said her last-minute decision was because she had been “naïve” to the sponsorship and she was “horrified” when she found out.

In a statement on social media, Rachel said she’s “grown up seeing the permanent effects war has had on people” and is “100% anti-war”.

She said her parents, who moved to the UK from Zimbabwe, were “child soldiers” and “because of this, war is an extremely triggering topic that I find emotionally difficult to speak about”.

With more than 30 000 people having been killed in Gaza, Chinouriri said she didn’t want “any association with war in any capacity.”

America is Israel’s biggest military backer, providing billions of dollars in defence aid every year, and a number of weapons Israel is using in the conflict, including jets and bombs, are US-made.

Rachel said she doesn’t want “any association with war in any capacity” and hopes to eventually share her family’s story when she’s ready.

She said the sponsorship of the festival by the US army was “an enormous oversight by SXSW and hopefully a huge learning experience to be more considerate about this in the future”.

Like other artists who’ve cancelled sets, including Kneecap and Lambrini Girls, Rachel says she’s facing an “immense financial loss” by not performing.

Despite that, “this has been an extremely easy decision to make,” the London-based singer wrote.

SXSW, which runs until 16 March in the city of Austin, celebrates film, comedy and music and attracts more than 300,000 people each year.

The United Nations has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza including famine and the US is playing a role in providing aid.

It is sending a military ship with materials to build a temporary pier to get supplies into the strip and has also parachuted in thousands of meals.

In a statement, the US Army told Newsbeat it was “proud to be a sponsor of SXSW, and to have the opportunity to showcase America’s Army… explore new ideas and insights, and create dynamic industry partnerships.”

SXSW has not responded to a request for comment from BBC Newsbeat.-BBC/STAFF WRITER

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