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PuSh Festival cancels Rakesh Sukesh’s show on micro-aggressions due to “unreasonable” delays in securing artists’ visas

Rakesh Sukesh by Panorama Dance Theater
Choreographer, dancer, and storyteller Rakesh Sukesh. Photo by Panorama Dance Theater.

The federal government won’t allow the artist in residence at a Vancouver festival to step foot in Canada. As a result, the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival has cancelled Rakesh Sukesh’s show, because I love the diversity (this micro attitude, we all have it).

Sukesh is a Belgium-based and Indian-born choreographer, dancer, and storyteller. He planned to arrive in Vancouver on January 8 to collaborate with Siminovitch Prize–winning playwright Marcus Youssef.

However, according to a PuSh Festival news release, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada “has yet to approve” Sukesh’s visitor’s visa. Sukesh applied for the visa in August 2022.

“Despite PuSh’s interests in programming works from the Global South, Canada’s immigration policy is blocking opportunities for international exchange and collaboration,” the PuSh Festival stated.

“The Festival has had similar issues this year with other artist visas, which came in at the eleventh hour (including artists from Africa and South America),” the news release continued. “This isn’t an anomaly and speaks to the power and privilege that Global North countries hold and enact.”

PuSh Festival organizers expressed confidence that Sukesh will be able to bring his work to Vancouver in the future. His show was scheduled at Performance Works from January 29 to 31.

Regardless, there are still 19 other shows at the festival, which runs from January 19 to February 5.

Rakesh Sukesh
PuSh Festival artist-in-residence Rakesh Sukesh addresses the roots of xenophobia in his show, entitled because I love the diversity. Photo by Irene Occhiato with artwork by Irene Narys.

Racism inspired Sukesh’s show

In an interview with Pancouver last month, Sukesh said that he created the show after being at the centre of a racially charged incident in Estonia. In this instance, he was crossing the street in the capital city, Tallinn, when a white man began surreptitiously videotaping him.

Later, the video was used in an anti-immigration campaign by white supremacists.

Alessia Luna Wyes is the choreographic assistant and dramaturgy-aesthetic adviser of because I love the diversity (this micro attitude, we all have it). Pol Sinus created the music and Mat Voorter is responsible for the costume.

“The piece is about these micro-aggressions that we feel in the skin in certain places,” Sukesh told Pancouver.

Granville Island, ROPA, Ultima Vez, Tictac Art Centre, and En Archipel supported Rakesh Sukesh’s show, because I love the diversity (this micro attitude, we all have it). The Push International Performing Arts Festival runs from January 19 to February 5. For information and tickets, visit the website. Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.