Sitting on her couch with a playback of The three ages of women of Gustave Klimt behind, maniza He frowns and sticks his nose into his automatic translator. “Wait a minute, I’m looking for the exact word in English… Oh, yes: link. That’s what I want to say, that music should unite us.” This 31-year-old knows what she is talking about: she is now blacklisted in her country, Russia. In the last few months, all of her scheduled gigs have been canceled for one reason: her public opposition to the Ukraine war.
In September, he agreed to tell us about his situation in a Zoom interview. She was in his house in Russia, next to a mirror with wall decorations. “Because of the laws that reinforce censorship, it is dangerous for me to talk to you,” he declares with a frank and paradoxically calm smile. Since the end of February and after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Manizha has used the audience it generates on social networks to say loud and clear that the war is a “fratricidal conflict” contrary to the “wishes of the Russian people”. He refuses to speak of a “special military operation”, following the formula imposed by the Kremlin. “The government reproaches me for my anti-war position. It is true: I am a supporter of peace. I was very young when the war broke out in Tajikistan, where I was born. My mother and I went to Russia. This country was like a balm for my heart and my host country. For more than 15 years of my life I have been a refugee.” In March, Manizha caused quite a stir with the release of her single Soldier. A theme about the life of soldiers on the front lines and their loved ones. He wrote it when he was 19 years old from his memories of the civil war in Tajikistan. Twenty-five years after the end of that conflict, the song echoes another war that affects him personally.
Manizha, 31 years old, feminist and progressive artist
“I know how hard it is to have your house destroyed, not being able to return, being a refugee. Especially when you’re a girl.” Whatever the subject we deal with, Manizha always returns to this essential point: being a girl, being a woman. She became known internationally with a decidedly feminist theme, Russian Woman. In 2021, after a career of almost 15 years, she was chosen to represent Russia and defend this theme in Eurovision. The chorus? “All Russian women should hear it: You are strong enough, you are going to break the wall!” On stage, her over-the-top performance and her red jumpsuit earned her fifth place in the final. It was a huge international success, despite the fact that in her “host land and home” – as she likes to call Russia – her single was harshly criticized by conservative men. At that time, she told the BBC some of the hate-filled comments he received: “I will pray to God that your plane crashes when you go to Rotterdam. (…) If you sing like that about Russian women, you won’t live here anymore”.
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Manizha, Russian singer on the Kremlin blacklist: “When we try to talk about peace, they cancel our concerts”