Artists as ‘ambassadors’ for NGOs: on what terms?

Senegalese singer Baaba Maal, due to perform in the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday 20 September, is a Global Ambassador for Oxfam.

Artists for Palestine UK has engaged in discussion with Oxfam in the hope the organisation would dissuade him from going ahead with the performance.

We have argued that an NGO which recruits artists to promote its values needs to make sure the artists’ actions are consistent with those values.   Baaba Maal appearing in occupied East Jerusalem is not, we’ve argued, consistent with Oxfam’s stated opposition to Israeli colonisation policy.

We are making public an edited version of our most recent letter to our Oxfam interlocutors.

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Baaba Maal yet to announce decision on going to Israel

Baaba and Gary YoungeUPDATE 3 SEPTEMBER:  Baaba Maal actively engaged with pro-Palestinian campaigners urging him to respect the Palestinian boycott call, seeming to leave open the possibility that he would not go to Israel on September 20.

Baaba is pictured (left) in discussion with Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge during the Africa Utopia festival at London’s Southbank Centre, where hundreds of Artists for Palestine UK leaflets were in circulation. A separate protest took place outside the building.

Younge referred to his own experience as a participant in the Palestinian Literature Festival (PalFest) in which artists were obliged to travel to meet their audiences because Palestinians are not themselves free to move around.

“Why would you go to a place where people can’t travel and there is a boycott going on?” he asked.

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