Vasil Garvanliev, North Macedonia’s singer for Eurovision 2021, has spoken out following criticism of artwork shown in the music video for his song “Here I Stand”. The singer defended his artistic vision and said he did not intend to hurt anybody.
The music video for “Here I Stand” was filmed at the National Gallery of Macedonia. Vasil is shown singing the song while wandering around galleries filled with works of art by Macedonian artists.
But some viewers were intrigued by one particular piece of art, a triptych by the artist Janeta Vangeli, inspired by Jesus Christ. The work involved three vertical panels of cream, green and a rusty orange colour. To some, this was a little too similar to the Bulgarian flag, which involves horizontal stripes of white, green and red.
While North Macedonia generally has friendly relations with its eastern neighbour, some Macedonians felt it was inappropriate for North Macedonia’s Eurovision video to include an artwork that resembled the flag of Bulgaria.
In response, broadcaster MRT released a new version of the video, having removed the scenes showing the controversial artwork.
But the drama didn’t quite die down. Some picked up on an interview from early 2020 that Vasil had with wiwibloggs. In the interview, Vasil talked to William about his life story and mentioned he had both Macedonian and Bulgarian citizenship. He explained he was from the town of Strumica in the eastern part of the country very close to the Bulgarian border and also had an ancestral connection.
Because of this, some Macedonians have felt it was inappropriate for North Macedonia’s Eurovision act to also have Bulgarian citizenship and have called for Vasil to be replaced.
Vasil speaks out
Speaking to the Macedonian newspaper Sloboden Pechat, Vasil said that the artwork in the video had no deliberate connection with the Bulgarian flag.
And despite his Bulgarian connection, Vasil is adamant that his Eurovision 2021 song is all about North Macedonia:
“From the first moment I knew that it is the song with which I want to present myself and the homeland, I strongly believe that together with our team we will present ourselves with dignity on the Eurovision stage. I hope that the message of faith and hope for a better morning will help us to overcome everything that happens to us together.”
Vasil also directly addressed fans with a video posted to his Facebook. Speaking in Macedonian, he clearly explained his stance on the situation. In the post caption he wrote:
“I am a music ambassador, and in music there is no religion, politics, orientation, race or color. I had absolutely no intentions to hurt anybody. Quite the opposite!
“I am so proud of this project which not only embodies me, but my country and culture – musicians and featured artists in the gallery.
“I do not apologise for being me. I never will – I didn’t have a choice in that. However, if I hurt ANYBODY in ANY WAY, from the bottom of my heart … I am sorry. Forgive me.”
Vasil is due to perform in the first semi-final of Eurovision 2021 on 18 May.
Read more North Macedonia Eurovision news here
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Disliking the song has literally nothing to do with the article. You can dislike the song and still think the reaction vasil is facing at home due to a piece of art is ridiculous. So yes you’re getting downvotes because of personal comments of vasil, not because we all love the song
Wow, Senhit has also revamped Adrenalina — some significant changes to the song.
Has she? Or is that ‘revamp’ her own version and not the Eurovision version.
Good for him. Tbh I found the song quite touching. It may do better than people realise. Good luck.
He gives off the vibe of a complete creep to me. The song won’t qualify anyways, what’s the fuss about?
What an unnecessary and judgmental comment….
Can I be offended by people being constantly offended?
He seems very nice and talented. I’d wish his song did justice to him.
Vasil couldn’t offend anyone if he tried. He seems like the nicest possible human being. There’s actually no-one I’m happier for this year than him and the fact that he’s getting to go to ESC with his song!
I only wish the song was better 🙂 But I absolutely agree with everything else you’ve said.
People are so easily offended these days, dear God.
I fully support Vasil!
Being an openly gay artist in a country that gay rights are non existent takes a lot of courage, so I respect him for that. But I feel that this a perfect example of what brainwashing can do: Old Governments created this macedonian narrative for a country that was a Serbian province with Bulgarian and Albanian citizens. Anything against it is anti patriotic…People should be able to identify as they wish.
Technically, all the artists are representing the broadcasters, not entire countries per se, who are taking part.
A song entered into the contest does not have to have a very nationalistic message or a cultural identifier to make it known that they’re a song representing a particular country, especially in the cases of the songs written by the acts themselves who may want to express their thoughts and feelings about subject matters that affect them and matter to them the most.
He shouldn’t apologize for these things. I’m sorry he had to face such complaints
I feel sorry for North Macedonia struggling to maintain relations with the neighboring countries. Greece having issues with Ellinic Macedonian past; Bulgaria claiming Macedonians simply as Bulgarians under the Serbian rule; Albania supporting the irredentism movement.
For sure, don’t care much about Vasil in particular.
I knew there’d be an almost-crying moment in the video. I’m surprised Vasil didn’t break into song.
Eurovision is all about coming together. Of course an artist from North Macedonia may also have Bulgarian citizenship. And Sweden sends a person of colour and the Netherlands send a person from Suriname (a former Dutch colony with Dutch as official language btw). It should be nothing special. I’m more embarrassed by reading these critics.
Obviously, you’re not from the region. Many people from North Macedonia apply for a Bulgarian citizenship due to the EU citizenship that comes with it. Bulgaria uses this in order to gain more influence in North Macedonia. Bulgaria claims the people of North Macedonia are Bulgarians, merely speaking a dialect of Bulgarian. It has gone as far as blocking North Macedonia’s EU access unless it acknowledges its Bulgarian heritage. So, the matter discussed in this article has nothing to do with diversity or inclusivity. It is a matter of politics and Balkan irredentism.
Balkans gonna Balkan.
Can Balkans just chill for a second. Just once, please.
Yeah, wtf? Why is he making this about himself when it’s just typical Balkan nationalistic bs?
Ah. The Balkans. Always some type of nationalistic drama coming out of that region. What else is new?
I saw a First Aid symbol on the wall in the clip, how dare Vasil try to steal the Swiss vote.
He clearly shot his non-apology video from a kitchen to win votes from people with kitchens too.
This hatred towards him probably merges from the homophobic attitude of Macedonians.
All this fuss for an artwork by a Macedonian artist that stands in the National Gallery of Macedonia…
Macedonian? I didn’t know Vasil was Greek? 🙂
I wasn’t referring to Vasil, I was referring to the artwork that caused the supposed controversy, as explained in the article above. Incidentally, I had written North Macedonian but it must have autocorrected.
In any case, the article also puts it this way: “a triptych by the Macedonian artist Janeta Vangeli”
Thanks for the references here, Robyn. I know the Gallery but wasn’t clear on the specificities of the Agreement.
A person from North Macedonia is called a Macedonian Citizen of North Macedonia, as per the Prespa agreement, not a Macedonian.
Depends. Greeks have spread out in much of the continent and even as far as India, and likely have assimilated into the local populations there. The Balkans alone have a long history of people coming and going in every directions.
People are really bored I guess
Finding stupid problems everywhere
I don’t like Here I Stand, but I feel sorry for him, he doesn’t deserve this backlash