Refugee Arts Networks: Extending The Frame Panel Discussion – Tuesday 2 November 2021

CAN was a partner in a live and online panel discussion at University of Manchester with refugee arts networks from Europe

Refugee Arts Networks: The Extending The Frame panel discussion and exchange brought together refugee-led artists’ advocacy networks to discuss new models for resilient creative networks and featured grassroots organisations from the UK, France, Germany and Portugal. 

The event was attended by artists, scholars, cultural workers, policymakers and people interested in the performing arts and refugeedom from across the UK and Europe.

The hybrid event facilitated an open conversation on the role of networks in advocating change on various artistic and institutional levels, aiming to build alliances across research and the creative sector within and outside the UK.

The panel discussion aimed to increase visibility and opportunities for refugee artists and groups, to share experiences and practices across geographic and cultural settings.

The event posed a number of questions.

What are the strategies and challenges faced by refugee artists today? How can networks foster systemic change? How can we develop new frameworks driven by the artistic visions created by refugee artists?

Participating networks

Migrants in Theatre, UK is a movement made up of first-generation migrant theatre artists and theatre companies who joined efforts to campaign for more and better representation of UK based migrant theatre artists in British theatre. The movement comprises artists from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds and experiences and is open to migrant theatre-makers in a multitude of roles, from actors, directors, set designers, playwrights, to stage managers, arts administrators and board members.

Mena Arts, UK is a new arts organisation for UK-based professionals who are connected to the MENA+ region (Middle East, North Africa and the surrounding area). We celebrate the talent of our membership. Strive to be at the heart of conversations around our identity. Be our own support network. Lobby for the appropriate representation. Advocate for change to increase access and opportunities for employment.

Agency Of Artists in Exile, France (aa-e) works to identify artists in exile from all origins and disciplines, accompanies them according to their situations and their needs, provides them with workspaces and puts them in contact with professionals (French and European network), in order to give them the means to practise their disciplines and to re-establish themselves in France. AA-E is also developing its own multidisciplinary festival, Visions d’exil (Visions of Exile), in cooperation with partner venues.

Postheimat Network, Germany is a continuously developing and progressing network in the field of performing arts, addressing the topics of migration, refuge, identity, multilingualism, and power structures within artistic practices and institutions. PostHeimat was established in 2018 by the artistic groups Boat People Projekt (Göttingen), Collective Ma’Louba (Mülheim an der Ruhr), Exil Ensemble (Berlin), Hajusom (Hamburg), Open Border Ensemble (Munich) and RUHRORTER (Mülheim an der Ruhr). More artists, groups, institutions, and researchers are becoming part of the network.

Una-Union Of Black Artists, Portugal UNA’s main objectives are the promotion, elevation and strengthening of black representation in the Portuguese arts sector, as well as the recognition and enhancement of the intangible heritage of the black population in Portugal. UNA’s main focus is to contribute to the development of affirmative action measures in the cultural sector, in conjunction with artists, social movements, public and private organisations.


Khaled Alwarea (Agency of Artists in Exile, France)

Born in 1988 in Damascus, Syria, Khaled Alwarea is an architect and multidisciplinary artist. His work varies between installation, visual art, photography, sculpture, filmmaking, scenography and interior design. In 2014, he founded the design studio UV LAB and carries out projects for the Middle East and Europe. In Lebanon, he is dedicated to the refugee crisis and equitable access to educational facilities for disadvantaged youth. He has been in France since 2016. He creates the scenography and lights for the theatre play Disparu·e·s by Judith Depaule, the puppet show Rupture by Maryam Samaan, and the performance On marche sur des œufs d’Ayoub Moumen.

Ramzi DeHani (MENA Arts, UK)

Ramzi is an actor and artist from London. He trained at the Oxford School of Drama and has worked across stage, screen and radio both in the UK and internationally. Recent credits include Making Tracks (Belstone Pictures) and Miriam and Youssef (BBC). Ramzi is also the co-founder of MENA Arts UK, an arts organisation for UK-based artists and creatives connected to the Middle East and North Africa.

Judith Depaule (Agency of Artists in Exile, France) 

Director and co-founder of the agency of artists in exile with Ariel Cypel, she is first and foremost a theatre director. In 2001, she founded the company Mabel Octobre, creating mostly her own writings and shows based on the double axis of investigation and multimedia. She teaches video and the relationship between new technologies and the stage at the École régional d’acteur de Cannes et de Marseille, the MA in Directing and Dramaturgy at the Université de Paris Nanterre, at the Jean Jaurès High School in Argenteuil. Winner of the Villa Médicis Hors Les Murs and Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, she wrote a thesis on theatre in the Stalin’s camps, Université de Paris Nanterre.

Lanna Joffrey (MENA Arts/ Migrants in Theatre, UK) 

Lanna Joffrey is an award-winning Iranian actor/writer who has trained and worked in the UK and US. She has enjoyed performing extensively in theatre, film, audio projects and her spoken word, which has been published in print and online. Her critically acclaimed verbatim docudrama Valiant has toured throughout the UK/US and was published this year by NoPassport Press.

Lubanzadyo Mpemba (UNA- Union of Black Artists, Portugal) 

He is an Angolan born artist who works mainly with video art, photo performance, performance and documentary. His work focuses on issues of migration, urban gentrification, institutional violence and collective memory. He holds a degree in Law and a MA in Sociology and worked in advocacy in collective tutelages and immigration. He also studied documentary cinema at the Institute of Cinema of São Paulo, Brazil.

Lara Parmiani (Migrants in Theatre, UK) 

Lara is an Italian born actor, director, theatre-maker and facilitator. She studied dramaturgy at Universita’ Cattolica in Milan and acting at Guildhall in London. She is Artistic Director of LegalAliens Theatre and a co-founder of Migrants in Theatre. She has appeared as an actor in countless stage productions and has directed and devised work with LegalAliens community group.

Anabela Rodrigues (UNA- Union of Black Artists, Portugal)

Better known as Belinha, she is an activist and writer, who also works as a cultural mediator with an immigrant organisation in Lisbon, Portugal. Her work is linked to the Theatre of the Oppressed and since 2012, together with the AMI-AFRO group she works on forum theatre performances nationally and internationally. Her work seeks to make the oppressions suffered by black people more visible. She is also part of the Together Network of the Theatre of the Oppressed as an actress and facilitator, working with associations from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Scotland and Croatia. She is a Councillor on the Economic and Social Council and was an MEP candidate in 2009 and 2019.

Jonas Tinius (PostHeimat Network, Germany) 

Jonas Tinius is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Scientific Coordinator of the ERC project Minor Universality: Narrative World Constructions After Western Universalism and the Associate Member of the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. His ethnographic research grapples with the tensions between art, nation, identity, migration, and colonial legacies in Europe, focusing on institutionalised forms of cultural production (theatres, museums, and galleries) and the reflexive agency of artistic and curatorial work. He is editor, with Margareta von Oswald, of the open-access volume Across Anthropology: Troubling Colonial Legacies, Museums, and the Curatorial (Leuven University Press, 2020).

Ruba Totah (PostHeimat Network, Germany) 

Ruba Totah is an anthropologist at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Her research interest and writing cover cultural activism, transnationalism and gender across Palestine, the Arab area and Europe. Her PhD focuses on Cultural Transnationalism and The Arab Uprisings: Migrating Artists from Syria to Europe.


Stella Barnes (Community Arts North West, UK)

Alison Jeffers (University of Manchester)

Szabolcs Musca (Migrant Dramaturgies Network/ New Tides Platform)


The Drama Department, University of Manchester has a strong history of research around issues of migration, refugeedom, asylum and their connections to a range of art practices. Initiated by the In Place of War project (2004-2008) this research trajectory was continued by Dr Alison Jeffers who has published several works in this field. A successful bid for AHRC funds in 2020 led to the research project – Listening to the Voices of Refugee Artists – now being carried out by Ambrose Musiyiwa . This is a collaborative doctoral award with Community Arts North West (CAN) in Manchester.


Community Arts North West (CAN) is a long-established Manchester-based arts organisation and Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. It builds deep, long-lasting connections with communities across Greater Manchester, developing unique, creative projects with people whose voices are not normally heard in the mainstream. CAN has led the field in community arts since 1978 and is at the cutting edge of intercultural arts practice. We have particular expertise and interest in arts and migration. Through exciting and high-quality creative projects with artists, communities and young people, CAN shares powerful creative work; shining a light on new talent and fresh voices, and enriching Greater Manchester’s cultural landscape. CAN’s work is firmly rooted in social justice and driven by ethical values.


Migrant Dramaturgies Network is a transnational collective of theatre professionals, researchers and cultural workers that forms part of New Tides Platform, an independent organisation working on cross-cultural exchanges in performing arts. MDN is a platform for exchange and knowledge sharing between thinkers, theatre-makers and organisations involved in migrant theatre on various levels of artistic and cultural creation and development. As a collaborative venture, we facilitate research programmes as well as arts & cultural projects together with international partners and theatre-makers to bring together a diversity of perspectives and expand understanding of migration and theatre.



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