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Fil Manfa - host organisations for artists in exile


"Fil Manfa", a solidarity programme run by the Roberto Cimetta Fund


RCF is not a humanitarian organisation, however, we have witnessed over the years how the current conflicts have made life extremely precarious for many artists who were living and working in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine...


We are in contact with many international organisations dedicated to the support and/or protection of artists in danger (ICORN, the network of refuge cities for artists in danger, Protect Defender platform of the European Union that groups together 8 international organisations dedicated to the protection of Human rights defenders, Safe Haven, international network for artists in danger, etc.).


We have learnt that many of the initiatives taken in this regard are done so on a global scale, very often concerning areas that are far away from the centre of the conflict. These initiatives don't necessarily respond to the needs of artists who are still on the periphery of those conflict zones.


Artists or cultural operators in these peripheral zones are there for various reasons: sometimes because they cannot travel to European countries either because they don’t have access for administrative reasons or because they don’t have enough funds, sometimes because they do not want to leave their region ;  they wish to stay in touch with their community and be there when the conflict is over to culturally rebuild things.


Through our network, RCF learnt about initiatives taken by artists and cultural operators in the towns close to the conflict zones such as Beirut, Duhok, Istanbul or Athens. These initiatives provided shelter, a meeting place, resources, advice for artists in exile. Sometimes they were self-created, sometimes part of an artspace that was already running.


RCF decided to suggest to institutional partners a funding mechanism to support the host organisations in these peripheral areas providing shelter, a workspace, advice to artists in exile. The support goes to the host organisation on an annual basis and an agreement is signed with RCF. The funding partners are : the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the City of Paris, the Cabildo of Gran Canarias and the Farrah Foundation, the Cabildo of Tenerife, the SYNDEAC – French syndicate of employers in the arts and culture sector, Marie-Christine Blandin, Senator of the French Republic. 


The beneficiaries of these host organisations, ie the artists in exile, are chosen by the RCF Board and Committee of experts as well as the host organisations’ managers, based on specific criteria.


Artists can be hosted for 3 to 6 months and special attention is provided to help the artist or cultural operator to find a suitable transition after his or her stay. Hosting can be total (accommodation, working space, advice) or partial depending on the situation of each artist or cultural operator.


Following five assignments to visit ten potential shelters for artists in exile near the conflict zones, from January to July 2016, we selected three spaces.We signed agreements with these shelters in Istanbul and Beirut as well as a Memorandum of understanding with UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan. These agreements were signed between December 2016 and February 2017.


To date three organisations are host of the Fil Manfa programme. They are based in Istanbul, Duhok and Beirut.


The programme was launched end of 2016/beginning of 2017.



You can view the video of the artists staying at Arthereistanbul on this site


The first Fil Manfa shelter in Istanbul is Arthere. Arthereistanbul is a meeting space and cafeteria open to the public where many Syrian and Turkish artists meet. Omar Berakdar is the founder of Arthere and he is also a visual artist. He is the Fil Manfa manager in Istanbul. Omar Berakdar involves Syrian and other Arab artists in the local art scene in Istanbul. He also aims to open an Arthere centre in Berlin to encourage circulation between the Middle East and the North of Europe. ArthereIstanbul received funding to support eleven artists in exile in 2017. 




Shams is the second Fil Manfa shelter based in Beirut. Shams is an independent Lebanese cultural organisation set up in January 1999 by young Lebanese artists and the director Roger Assaf. The current director is Abdo Nawar. The aim of Shams is to produce and run a variety of artistic activities in all forms of art such as theatre, mime, dance, music, and audio-visual art such as video, multimedia and film. These are made available to young talents and creatives to develop and circulate knowledge and skills. Currently Shams has its headquarters at the Sunflower Theatre in the centre of Beirut. 


Artists in exile hosted by the Fil Manfa shelter have a small apartment near the Sunflower and can use the space at Shams to work. Shams received funding to host six artists in exile in 2017.





The House of Artists, Domiz Refugee Camp, Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan


The situation for the artists in the refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan is different. They need a workspace inside the camp. RCF met the team of UNFPA in Domiz camp and together came to an agreement. UNFPA provided the workspace and RCF provided the equipment which the artists could use: computers, music instruments (Saz, Organ, Violet, Guitar, Tajumbish, Zirna, Nay, Kurdish and Arabic drums), recording equipment, a camera, painting and drawing material and an annual internet connection. In order to run the Fil Manfa project in Domiz camp we needed a local RCF coordinator. 


Domiz camp


Mr. Kawar Fariq was contracted by RCF in February 2017 as the first coordinator in Domiz camp until December 2017. Mr. Sozdar Sabry, a Syrian theatre director living in the camp, took over from Kawar in December last. He signed a contract and works in relation with UNFPA to organise and run the artistic workshops and is responsible for the RCF equipment.


The workspace and equipment is provided to the artists in the camp in exchange for running artistic workshops for the youngsters in the camp. The workshops started in December 2017.


Currently more than fifty young people from the camp are taking part in the workshops (music, visual arts, photography and theatre) run by the associated artists. Saleem Akyree has been appointed as the “focal point coordinator” of UNFPA and works hand in hand with Sozdar on the running of the workshops and the development of the Fil Manfa programme in Domiz refugee camp.


Fil Manfa workshops in theatre, visual arts, photography and music have been organised. The workshops take place on different days of the week in alternation and each workshop runs for approximately 10 days/sessions.



music workshop


The theatre workshopgroups together 15 youngsters in Domiz camp. Sozdar and his wife Rojman teach the youngster the main aspects of Syrian theatre. The process is also a way of familiarising them with the culture they left back home, reminding them of traditions and communities. In this way, the youngster can continue to remember this despite the distance that separates them for their homes before they became refugees. The workshops are run as follows: Day 1: meet and get to know each other through theatre, day 2: learn to express oneself and break down personal barriers, day 3: learn the history of theatre, day 4: learn to stand on stage, day 5: learn to improvise, day 6: work on a theatrical text, day 7: stage work and distribution of roles, day 8: rehearse on stage, day 9: rehearsal on stage, day 10: short performance of a theatrical piece on social customs and traditions.

Each day the attendance of the youngsters is recorded. At the end of the workshop each participant receives a certificate of attendance. 


The Visual Arts workshopis run for 15 youngsters. The workshop is also run for a duration of ten days. Each participant discovers graphic arts and through this will recognise his or her culture, customs and traditions. The artist-trainer is Kawa. He teaches drawing technics, lines, shadows, geometrical forms, the human body and movements, oil painting. 


The music workshopis run on the same basis as the two other workshops (a duration of ten days, 15 youngsters take part, production of work at the end of the workshop and a certificate given to each participant to acknowledge the training process). The artist trainer is Ali. The youngsters learn about a musical instrument (in this case the violin). They learn how to play and produce a few melodies. The artist trainerHoker Abdulrahmane Ibrahim runsa photography workshopon the same basis.


The first House of Artists in a refugee camp near the conflict zones of the Middle East was lanched on 20th June 2018 (World Refugee Day) in the presence of the following people: Mr Farhad Ameen Atrushi, the Governor of the Region of Duhok; Mr Dominique Mas, the French Consul in Erbil; Mr Ferdinand Richard, the Chairman of the Roberto Cimetta Fund; Ms Siham Mamand, the Assistant Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government; Mr Nestor Owomuhangi, the Deputy Representative of UNFPA to Iraq; Omar Berakdar, Fil Manfa Manager in Istanbul; Thomas Fansten, Advisor for Culture and Human Rights, City of Paris; Emilie Heriteau, Representative of the SYNDEAC; Shayda Hessami, Chair of Humanitarian Aid and Journalism. 


Inauguration ceremony House of Artists, Domiz refugee camp


Ms Siham Mamand, the Assistant Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr Farhad Ameen Atrushi, the Governor of the Region of Duhok and Ferdinand Richard, Chairman of the Roberto Cimetta Fund officially inaugurate the House of Artists.


kids Domiz camp


The children in the camp and the artists of the Fil Manfa programme prepared a fabulous programme of dance and music to celebrate the occasion.


Nestor Owomuhangi and Ferdinand Richard


Nestor Owomuhangi, the Deputy Representative of UNFPA to Iraq welcomed Ferdinand Richard, Chairman of the Roberto Cimetta to the House of Artists, Domiz camp, Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan.



Inauguration House of Artists 20 June 2018

Group Photo: From left to right (first row standing) Rujman, actress in the camp, Omar Berakdar (Fil Manfa manager in Istanbul), Emilie Heriteau representative of SYNDEAC, French National Syndicate for artistic and cultural companies, artists Ali, Kawa and Hoker, Angie Cotte, Secretary General of the Roberto Cimetta Fund, the Gouvernor of Duhok Mr. Atrushi, Ferdinand Richard, Chair of the Roberto Cimetta Fund, Siham Mamand Deputy to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of  KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government), the Consul of France Dominique Mas, Shayda Hessami, president of Aide Humanitaire et Journalisme Organisation, Nestor Owomuhangi, Head Representative of UNFPA in Iraq, Thomas Fansten, Conseiller Culture et Droits Humains, Ville de Paris. From left to right (second row), third person is Saleem Akyree, our UNFPA mediator and fabulous coordinator. From right to left, second person is Sozdar Berazi, our Fil Manfa coordinator in the camp, Syrian-Kurde refugee actor.



Shayda Hessami, Chairwoman and founder of the Association Aide Humanitaire et Journalisme, is an associate partner in the project. She is an Iranian cultural activist, who lived for many years in Iraqi Kuridstan and currently is living in France. She was our first partner in identifying the artists in Domiz camp together with Edith Henry, artist of la Pluie d'Oiseaux in the Hauts de France Région of France.


From left to right: Edith Henry, Angie Cotte, Shayda Hessami


Ferdinand Richard, chairman of the Roberto Cimetta Fund made two preliminary visits to Duhok in July 2016 and February 2017. He met the artists and the supervisors there. The agreement with UNFPA was signed beginning of March 2017 with Mr. Nestor Owomuhangi, head of the UNFPA in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan. Ten artists from the camp are currently associated with the project. 


We would like to underline the partnership with the regional authorities of Kurdistan for the organisation of visits on the spot. We extend our gratitude to the Representative of the regional authorities of Kurdistan in Paris and his team. 


Morning discussion RCF and artists




What do we do?

Presentation of RCF |  | Partners