Octopizzo, hip-hop artist and founder and executive director of Octopizzo Foundation. Image Credit: Sarvy Geranpayeh/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: One of the most inspiring panel discussions at the Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday evolved around refugees and whether arts could make a difference in this global crisis.

With the biggest refugee camp in the world located in Uganda, panellist Octopizzo, a Kenyan hip-hop artist and founder and executive director of Octopizzo Foundation that supports refugees in Africa, made an emotional case for why he felt arts were the most important way forward in helping the refugees.

“The only thing that you can do in this world without needing paperwork (passport) is the arts. Music and culture are the only hope, everything-else has failed,” he said.

“The governments, politics, the United Nations have all failed the refugees. So the only thing that can work is the arts,” he added as the audience burst into a loud applause.

The Kenyan artist’s foundation helps refugees in Africa by going into their camps and providing them with a year-long training programme to realise their talents in sports and arts. Through the programme last year, he helped 135 artists, aged between 16 to 28, record 26 songs and created an album with 18 of those songs, along with 13 videos.

He said the main aim was to give them ownership over something. “These are people (refugees) that have lost their countries, their families, their parents, now they have something that they feel ‘this is mine, they can take everything-else from me but this is mine’.”

Octopizzo said he was inspired to try and do his part for the refugees when he was asked to perform at a camp in 2013 and realised that there were many people who were born there and did not know anything about life beyond the camp’s walls.

“Refugee camps in Africa are a kind of a jail. Because they tell you when to eat, when to sleep … so what can we do as artists?”

“My talent got me out of the slums and got me to travel. There are kids like me in the camps … and can be another me if they are given an opportunity or a chance,” he said. “Art is the only hope.”