Sawayama, who left Japan at the age of four, has retained her Japanese passport so that she might feel closer to her family who live in her country of birth. As Japan does not allow its citizens to hold dual nationality, Sawayama is unable to apply for British citizenship.
The British Phonographic Industry who are responsible for the organisation of the Mercury awards, stipulate that solo artists must have either British or Irish nationality in order to be eligible for the award. Official documentation of citizenship must be provided with each application.
For Sawayama, “this definition of Britishness” is inaccurate and antiquated. While she considered renouncing her Japanese citizenship, she felt this will not “solve anything”.
She continued that, as an immigrant “you get to a level when you don’t have to worry about your nationality and your status and whether you fit into this country. Things like that bring into sharp focus, like, whether I am even British. It’s just very upsetting.”
A spokesperson for BPI said: “Both the Brit awards and the Hyundai Mercury prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed.”
Sawayama concluded: “If arts awards are creating their own sort of version of border control around their eligibility, I think that’s really problematic.”