Promoting social inclusion through art: Refugee and host community artists shine at 'Talents Beyond Borders'

In Egypt, aspiring artists from the host and refugee communities were trained by experts and provided a platform to showcase their talents through the ILO PROSPECTS programme promoting social inclusion.

Article | 15 September 2023
Participants of the Talent Beyond Participants workshop receiving certification at the event ©ILO/Aspire

Cairo, EGYPT, (ILO news): The morning of 27 August 2023 was a lifelong dream for 55 host and refugee community artists presenting their work at the “Talents Beyond Borders” event organised in Cairo’s Hotel Tolip Inn. Having been given a platform to present their skills and ideas, the artists cherished every moment of attention they received from the audience.

The event was a culmination of a series of workshops on acting, singing, dancing, photography and painting organized by the ILO and its partner Aspiring Training Solutions. Budding talents from both host and refugee communities were shortlisted through a meticulous selection procedure and were mentored by leading artists from respective fields through the workshops.

Amir Obeid, Chief Technical Advisor, ILO PROSPECTS Egypt, explained: “Together, through exchange and technical sessions, the young artists were supported to shape their ideas into expressive art forms. They performed and presented their work at the final event, serving as a vibrant celebration of social inclusion. After all, art has a universal language and power to unite people from diverse backgrounds.”
Ayamen posing with the frame of his photograph displayed at the event ©ILO/Aspire

The visual and performing artworks were exhibited at the event venue. At the entrance, a gallery consisting of paintings, collections of photographs and pencil drawings by the artists was set up as a walk-through exhibition.

Ayman Abdel al Karim , a refugee from Yemen proudly stood next to a display of his photographs. "Photography was once my hobby, but the Talents Beyond Borders workshop transformed it into a true passion. I learned advanced photography techniques and further honed my framing techniques. It has enabled me to find such perfect angles and get stunning shots,” shared Ayman.

Adding an interactive element to the exhibition, visitors had the opportunity to vote for their favourite photographs and drawings. The winner was later rewarded with a prize.

A drawing by Zebadiah Mohamed, a Sudanese refugee, was one of the exhibits. She said: “The experience of learning from the mentors was enriching and changed my approach to drawing. For me, the biggest reward is my newly found courage to present my work to the public.”
Theatre workshop participants performing a musical ©ILO/Aspire

Once through the exhibition, the audience were received inside a theatre featuring performances of musicians, singers, dancers and actors. An insightful video report on the workshops provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the hard work of the artists preparing for the show.

“It was interesting to learn about the journey of artistic exploration followed by each participant in developing their works. It allowed us to connect with the artists and understand their backgrounds and life experiences better,” shared Carol, one of the visitors.

During the workshops and the event itself, the artists were able to develop a strong bond of friendship with each other. “Beyond the skills I learned, the workshop provided me with an opportunity to build meaningful connections with a diverse group of friends coming from various backgrounds," added Zebadiah.
Zebadia Mohammed posing with her drawing ©ILO/Aspire
Maryam Khaled, a project officer at Aspire Training Solutions, admitted that this was a unique and special project. She said: “The appreciation from audiences and the growth in confidence of the artists underlined the profound impact of this project. We see now the effects and importance of working with diverse groups and using art to promote social inclusion.“

Summing up the outcome of the event in improving social cohesion between host and refugee communities, Obeid said: “Talents Beyond Borders believed in the transformative power of art to strengthen solidarity and social cohesion among communities. Moreover, it empowered artists, helping them embrace their identities. It shared stories of transformation, growth and hope.”

By uniting refugees and host communities on a shared platform, the initiative emphasised the strength of shared humanity. It sent a powerful message that art transcends borders and that everyone’s story is inherently valuable.


PROSPECTS is a global partnership spearheaded by the Government of the Netherlands that aims to improve the access of host communities and forcibly displaced people to education, social protection, and decent work.

In this partnership, the ILO plays a key role in promoting decent work and focuses on strengthening local economic development and improving employability by equipping refugees and host communities with better and relevant skills to enter local labour markets and access enterprise development opportunities.