Nabihah Iqbal And Petite Noir Criticise Damon Albarn’s Africa Express Project
Nabihah Iqbal and South African artist Petite Noir (real name Yannick Ilunga) have both accused Damon Albarn's Africa Express project of exploitation.
Founded in 2006, the organisation – which brings together Western and African artists for collaborations – held its most recent music showcase on 2nd February in Johannesburg. Iqbal and Ilunga both took part, along with the likes of Ghetts, Nick Zinner and Spoek Mathambo.
In a now-deleted post captioned "21st century colonization is alive", Ilunga wrote about his experience, which included recording music for an album. “We had artists from around the world and South Africa come in and collaborate but mostly African artists. White people were heading the project. Some people ended up making about 6 tracks. Once the recording time was done, we were treated like we were nothing all of a sudden… Then we were given this piece of shit [contract] which states that they own all the music and we are given 1£… that is obviously all that we are worth right?”
Iqbal later posted images of the contract (which you can also view below) that the musicians were presented with after the sessions had finished, which states that Africa Express gets all the rights to all of the music in exchange for a nominal £1 fee, with no guarantees regarding royalties. "How is this "committed to supporting music in Africa"?", Iqbal questioned. "I have contacted the organizers of Africa Express stating that I cannot sign this contract until it has been amended so that the terms are more egalitarian. I have told them that I don't just want them to amend my contract, but to amend ALL the artists' contracts… People need to know what is really behind the façade of this "charity". As a POC, I know the playing field is not level. It never has been. But unless we take the risk to speak out about these injustices, things will never change."
Africa Express has since responded, stating that, "Africa Express is not run to make a profit. As we pay all the travel, accommodation and other costs for Western artists joining us on trips, we ask them to volunteer their time. They can make a contribution to our costs if they are willing. We do not pay them. All our contracts are negotiated, discussed and agreed, not inflicted. The artists in Africa are treated differently, reflecting often different circumstances. We do pay them for their time." You can read their statement in full here.