The Montreal International Jazz Festival has decided to cancel an ongoing stage show about slaves after receiving intense criticisms surrounding the production.
The production titled SLAV heavily featured African-American slave songs. It was created by Betty Bonifassi, a renowned performer, and Robert Lepage, a celebrated stage and movie director.
The show, according to the BBC, was sold out, but it was riddled with controversies. People have been slamming the show for casting a white lead and a predominantly-white cast despite the show being about African-American slaves.
Montreal International Jazz Festival Caves
On Wednesday, July 4, the Montreal International Jazz Festival canceled Slav and issued a statement regarding the controversy. The Montreal Gazette was first to break the news.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival has cancelled remaining performances of controversial show SLAV. More details coming. — Montreal Gazette (@mtlgazette) July 4, 2018
"For the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, inclusion and reconciliation between communities is essential," the festival said. "We made the decision with the artist Betty Bonifassi to cancel all performances of the show at the festival." The cancellation follows the resignation of one of the show's musicians, singer Moses Sumney, as a protest for what detractors call was a cultural appropriation of the history of African-Americans. In a tweet, he said that he was disappointed with the jazz festival for presenting Slav and for defending the show despite criticisms.
Regarding our Montreal show: pic.twitter.com/I8dr7OM8SA — Moses Sumney (@MosesSumney) July 3, 2018
Criticisms And Protests
Slav, dubbed as a "theatrical odyssey based on slave songs," has received intense criticism online and offline. The show opened to massive protests that saw a crowd gathered in front of the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in downtown Montreal to block theatergoers. They chanted "Dirty racists" and "White supremacists." Some were holding placards that stated that white culture is theft.
The police had to be involved to make sure that the audience will be able to go into the venue unscathed. Although no incidence of violence has been reported.
In her defense, Bonifassi, who has recorded two albums on slave songs, argued that the show was not about cultural appropriation. In a statement, she said that she does not see nor hear color because, at the heart of the show, is "human pain experienced together."
All cultures and ethnicities suffer the same," she explained.
The cancelation announced on Wednesday was celebrated by critics online.
I am so proud of Black Montreal (@thirdeyesoph , @ohmaloutre , @marlihanlopez , @pierrekwenders , @MosesSumney , etc.) for fighting so hard to shut down the performance of #Slav . shame on @MtlJazzFestival , the fight is not over. links pasted below to learn more + support — Robyn Maynard (@policingblack) July 3, 2018
#slav is cancelled! Huge victory for everyone who's been part of the #slavresistance! pic.twitter.com/1A1lnZLoPf — Ted Rutland (@TedRutland) July 4, 2018
Kudos to the @MtlJazzFestival for finally cancelling #SLAV. Too bad it took making International headlines in the @nytimes, @BBC, and @MosesSumney pulling his performance for them to notice what they should have acknowledged all along: this was a terrible idea. https://t.co/Yt4APDTrAK — Toula Drimonis (@ToulasTake) July 4, 2018
The Montreal International Jazz Festival says that tickets already purchased for the canceled shows will be refunded.