Rina Sawayama Speaks Out About Exclusion From the BRIT Awards
“If arts awards are creating their own sort of version of border control around their eligibility, I think that’s really problematic.”
Rina Sawayama has responded to her exclusion from the BRIT Awards, which barred the British-Japanese artist from submitting her critically acclaimed album, SAWAYAMA, for consideration. When the BRIT Awards announced the shortlist for its Hyundai Mercury Prize, fans and critics alike — including Elton John — pointed out the fact that Sawayama was overlooked.
Sawayama has indefinite leave to remain (ILR), a visa category that grants permanent residency and work rights in the UK. Despite her contributions to music — and the fact that she has lived in the UK since she was a toddler — Sawayama’s ILR status renders her ineligible to enter the Mercury Prize.
“I’ve just lived [in the UK] all my life. I went to summer school in Japan, and that’s literally it,” Sawayama told VICE. ”But feel like I’ve contributed to the UK in a way that I think is worthy of being celebrated, or at least being eligible to be celebrated,” the artist said, adding that the situation makes her question her identity. “[As an immigrant], you get to a level when you don’t have to worry about your nationality and your status and whether you fit into this country. Things like that bring into sharp focus, like, whether I am even British”
Sawayama hopes that, going forward, the BRIT Awards will expand its definition of “Britishness” to include a wider range of people. “If arts awards are creating their own sort of version of border control around their eligibility, I think that’s really problematic,” she said. “It’s up to the award bodies to decide what Britishness really encompasses — the very things that they celebrate, which is diversity and opportunity.”
BPI, the governing body for the BRIT Awards, issued a statement responding to Sawayama’s concerns: “Both The BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed.”