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.
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