Tanzanian musician Vitali Maembe is no stranger to the hard hand of authorities. Whenever he performs live chances are the police will show up to stop the concert. This is the fear his words and music install in those in power.
For many years now, Maembe has been singing about social issues in his home country and about the failures of his government. This often gets him in trouble. Recently Maembe was detained and then released on bail for allegedly ‘insulting the government‘ in his new song ‘Kaizari’.
According to this article the “Tanzanian authorities are known to censor political opinions that oppose the government, whether journalistic or in the arts. The country’s new Cyber Crimes Act actively represses freedom of expression, opposition and dissent.”
In a recent interview Maembe said: “First, you cannot run away from politics…when I sing about youths businesses failing or the dispensary having no medicine or that road being horrible, I am not talking politics, and please bear in mind that our national anthem says ‘Wabariki viongozi wetu’.
How can we bless our leaders if we don’t tell them the truth?”
Academy in Exile is a consortium, founded in 2017, which offers fellowships and residency to artists and cultural producers who have been subject to oppression, are at risk, or have been displaced because of their work and their voice. The residency is in Berlin.
The artists and producers are invited “to work on Fixing What’s Broken and suggest artistic solutions to the interconnected problems posed by forced migration, conflict, authoritarianism, and knowledge at risk. The three artists in residence, funded by a grant from the Allianz Kulturstiftung, will be associated with Academy in Exile’s Critical Thinking Program at the Freie Universität Berlin.”
In Turkey, rapper Şehinşah was recently detained by local authorities for allegedly insulting the president in two of his songs. Şehinşah wrote on his Twitter account: “On my way home, I was detained at the airport for insulting the President. I am in detention again.”
In another tweet Şehinşah describes his frustration over these continuous detentions and promises to soon release a protest song.
According to the State of Artistic Freedom 2021, published by Freemuse, several artists have been oppressed and attacked by Turkish authorities and “experienced legal prosecution under Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (Insulting the President of the Republic) and also the 1991 Anti-Terror Law (no. 3713/TMK). Both laws have been used to legitimise state repression against opposing ideas and individuals.”