The performing arts industry in France was in a state of shock on Thursday, September 14, as the crisis between France and Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso took its toll on an artistic territory that could have done with more support instead. “On instructions from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs,” all subsidized cultural establishments were informed that they must “suspend, until further notice, all cooperation with the following countries: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso.”
This message, dispatched by the General Directorates for Cultural Affairs (DRAC) to the cultural structures that depend on their services, such as national drama and choreography centers and national stages, was forwarded to the secretariat of the Ministry of Culture. The measures recommended were radical: “All cooperation projects carried out by your establishments or departments with institutions or nationals of these three countries must be suspended, without delay, and without exception. All financial support must also be suspended, including via French structures such as associations. Similarly, no invitations should be extended to any nationals of these countries. As of today, France will no longer issue visas for nationals of these three countries, without exception, and until further notice.”
Described as “threatening”by the all-powerful National Syndicate for Artistic and Cultural Enterprises union (SYNDEAC), the order from on high sent shockwaves through the ranks of the cultural community. “We’ve never had an injunction like this before,” said Bruno Lobé, vice president of the SYNDEAC and director of Le Manège, a national theater in Reims. “France’s philosophy towards artists living in countries with which it is in conflict has always been to continue to invite them, without ever breaking off the dialogue. These artists are already prevented from working by their own governments. If we add another layer of hardship, it will be a real catastrophe, not only for their survival but also for France’s image.”
‘What has become of the values of France?’
Implementing the ban demanded by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs would set a precedent. But it would also reveal an inconsistency that Lobé spelled out: “At the start of the war in
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