Rachel Chinouriri Pulls Out of SXSW Over US Army Sponsorship

Rachel Chinouriri has joined the ranks of artists withdrawing from South by Southwest (SXSW) in Texas due to the festival’s controversial sponsorship deal with the US Army. In solidarity with bands protesting the military’s backing of Israel amid the Gaza conflict, Chinouriri announced her last-minute decision to cancel her participation, citing her shock and regret upon discovering the sponsorship. Through a social media statement, the singer-songwriter emphasized her firm anti-war stance, influenced by her upbringing and the enduring impact of armed conflict, particularly on her family, whose history includes experiences as child soldiers.

The conflict in Gaza, which erupted with attacks from Hamas and resulted in significant casualties and destruction, has heightened scrutiny of America’s substantial military aid to Israel. Chinouriri underscored her aversion to any association with warfare, expressing hope to share her family’s narrative in due time. She characterised the oversight by SXSW regarding the sponsorship as significant, urging greater consideration in the future to avoid such controversies.

Chinouriri’s withdrawal aligns with other artists’ decisions, including Kneecap and Lambrini Girls, reflecting a collective stance against military involvement in cultural events. Despite facing financial losses from the cancellation of her performance, Chinouriri emphasised the moral clarity of her decision, prioritising her anti-war principles over monetary considerations.

SXSW, renowned for its vibrant celebration of film, comedy, and music, attracts a diverse and extensive audience annually. However, the festival’s affiliation with the US Army’s sponsorship has prompted widespread criticism and prompted artists to reevaluate their participation, highlighting broader tensions surrounding military involvement in cultural spaces.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the looming threat of famine, has drawn international attention. The United Nations has issued warnings regarding the dire conditions, prompting urgent aid efforts from various nations, including the United States. Despite facing backlash, the US Army reiterated its support for SXSW sponsorship, emphasising its commitment to showcasing American military initiatives and fostering industry partnerships.

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