I had left Sri Lanka, which is still a very unsafe place. For me to get here, I had to learn to speak English, I had to go to art school, become a rapper — because it’s what America understood the most, in terms of communication — get to America, stand in front of respected TV channels like CNN and Fox. And I was like, “Hi, my name is M.I.A. I’m a Tamil and I come from Sri Lanka. Oh, by the way: There’s a war coming to an end, but it’s not as easy as the government killing terrorists. It’s a lot of civilians getting killed, and they’re using chemical weapons. Footage is being uploaded to YouTube, which is disgusting.” And everybody told me to F off. They were just like, “We don’t understand you; you’re a liar,” and discredited the work that I had done for 10 years. […]
One is a story where an American person goes to Uganda and picks out the story, puts it into context and then uploads it to YouTube, and then a lot of Americans can understand it. And me, I can be in the same category as Jacob, but I did the journey myself — nobody had to come to my village and save me and articulate my story. I’d learned the language myself, I built the platform myself, got to a microphone myself, got nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar the same month, to make the biggest platform possible in America. Then I told the story — and it didn’t translate.