If you come from a traditional Habesha home, it’s a well known fact that if you’re pursuing anything in the arts you’ll get a look of either confusion or concern, or both. Where arts is sometimes undervalued in the community, Nabil Rajo is an anomaly. Born to a family of directors, writers, and actors, it’s not a surprise that he’s followed in their footsteps. Nabil sits down to share how he got his start in Toronto’s competitive and often exclusive film industry.

How did you get into acting?
Well it runs in my family, I was born in Asmara, and came here when I was 6 years old. My uncle is a writer, director, producer and creates his own content in Eritrea. He has his own little studio in Asmara. His name is Al Amin Ali Mus. My cousin is also a very well known actor in Eritrea and Ethiopia – Fuad Al Amin. It runs in the family, but growing up I spent a lot of time with my uncle and we would watch a lot of movies together. I remember watching John Q with him, he really admired American cinema. As an artist, you don’t want any sort of limitation but for him being in that situation, he could only do what he could. It was such a natural thing for me to be an actor because I was exposed to it at such a young age.

How did you cultivate that talent here?

My mom didn’t put me into any theatre programs here. She wanted me to be focused in school. I wasn’t immersed in that world. Deep down I wanted to do it but I never voiced my interest. I didn’t know how to do it, and I just didn’t know who to ask. In my last year of highschool I did a play about domestic abuse and after that I really considered it. I found a way to figure it out, how to get a headshot, how to get an agent and all of that. I did it on my own, sent some head shots to different agencies, you bump into people and start asking questions and figure out how you can work your way up.

What does your mom think about all of this?

Well, I’m an only child. I have no one to talk to but her. The thing about my mom is that she is very supportive. When I decided to embark on being an actor she was like ugh it’s Al Amin’s fault (my uncle). Then she told me if you’re gonna do it make sure you excel, do it and make sure you are the best at it, don’t half ass it, just be the best you can be. There’s this obvious stigma within our community that being an artist is not a viable career option, that it’s unacceptable. I understand that our parents sacrificed, they did a lot for us so that we can get many opportunities that they never had. But at the end of the day you should support your kid, and trust your kid. If you raised them the right way just know that whatever they do, they’re gonna try to be the best at it. It’s like ok I can be an engineer, I can have a good family but at the end of the day am I happy? you gotta be happy, you gotta be happy with your career, with what you do in life. I don’t want to be in my 30’s and latter 40’s and think -where would I be right now if I had done it?

The way things are going now in terms of the Oscars and Jada Pinket Smith boycotting it, do you think it’s going to be difficult for you to land certain roles in the future because of the diversity issue?

This whole Oscar situation has opened a lot of people’s eyes, which is good. I’m optimistic there will be more opportunities for us in the future. I think it’s going to change.

I also want to talk about your experience in working for the Aaliyah biopic, I know it got a lot of slack from viewers on social media , what was that experience like?

It’s funny you mention that, it was like the second highest viewed TV movie of 2014. It was a great experience, it was a fun environment. You see me during a pool party scene, my character gets a little wild and breaks one of Damon Dash’s vase and gets thrown out of the party. We just hung out at the poolside all day.

It’s unfortunate people disliked it. It was a highly anticipated project and the cast and crew did everything they could to make it a great movie. But it’s always tough making a autobiography cause people pay attention to all the little things especially when it’s based on someone like Aaliyah. She was adored by so many people.

How do you mentally prepare for auditions?

I do research and try to figure out who the character is. I basically have to believe the character I’m playing if anyone else is going to believe it. I do research, I have to understand what type of show it is. I analyze the scene and get a better understanding of my character and his objective. I try not to obsess over all the little things, once I’ve got all the answers. I just put it away until I go in for the audition. It becomes daunting when you think too much about it .

Do you have other roles you prefer to play? Or something you would never do?

I love drama, I like the psychological stuff. The reason why I like acting is because it’s an outlet right? It’s like a ticket out of your world into another. So you have the freedom to leave your life for a little bit and focus on who you want to be. It’s like the element of surprise, you are able to completely commit and be someone you thought you could never be. In my day to day. I’m usually quiet and reserved so when I get a chance to break out of that, it’s always fun. It’s always a learning experience. Those are the kind of projects that teach you a couple of things about yourself.

Is the fame aspect attractive to you at all?

Fame isn’t attractive to me at all. I’m low-key, I don’t like too much attention. It’s all about personal growth for me, working and learning more about myself.


Celebrate with EYC!

EYC is inviting you to come celebrate the year end of our first cohort of The N2 Project!

Enjoy our Entertainment Night with Spoken Word and other performances. We’ll also have food, music, and tokens for youth.

Our young N2 Leaders have been working hard on an amazing Community Development Project and will reveal it at this event!

Come support your youth and enjoy the evening with us! Please share with family and friends.

NOTE: If you would like to perform please contact EYC at or call 647-741-0235


Celebrate with EYC!

EYC is looking for talented performers to celebrate the year end of our first cohort of The N2 Project!

We will have performers like Spoken Word Artists and Comedians performing! If you would like to showcase your talent or share your work please email or call 647-741-0235
We will enjoy our Entertainment Night with Spoken Word and other performances. We’ll also have food, music, and tokens for youth.

Our young N2 Leaders have been working hard on an amazing Community Development Project and will reveal it at this event!

Come support your youth and enjoy the evening with us! Please share with family and friends.

See you there :)

find a waynot an excuse

Join Eritrean Youth Collective (EYC) and Eritrean York Students United (EYSU) for a Tour of York University!

If you’re thinking about Post-Secondary Education whether you’re in high school or not, this is great day to learn more about York University.

We’ll have information about programs and university life.

There will be snacks, refreshments, & tokens will be provided!

You can either meet the team at the EYSU Office at York University or meet with EYC at our downtown office to travel to YorkU as a group.

Please state in your RSVP which option you decide along with your phone number at this link

See you there!

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Meet Makda Bereket.

Makda is an N2 Leader in The N2 Project at Eritrean Youth Collective. She’s been grinding by being in school, working, and following her passions like working with her N2 Project team. Check out what Makda has to say.

Come back to our Blog to meet more of our youth.

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Meet Mahmoud Ismail.

Mahmoud is an N2 Leader in The N2 Project at Eritrean Youth Collective. Meet him and other N2 Leaders here on our Blog. Look forward to his project development idea at our Dragon’s Den (To be Announced).

Iman ali

Welcome to “Feature Fridays”! Here, you’ll meet aspiring artists and community leaders doing big things! Our mission is to support and share the initiatives and dreams of important people in our community just like you.


Today, meet Iman Ali.

  1. Tell us about yourself.

My name is Iman Ali. I am a 26 years old Eritrean from Toronto. I am an alumni of York University with a bachelor’s degree in Humanities. I am also a recent graduate of George Brown College from the Social Service Worker Program. I have a strong passion for community development, youth empowerment, and art.

  1. When was the first time you actually thought to yourself you wanted to be an artist/painter?

Art has always been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have always been keenly inclined to the appreciation of art through observation. My family have always recognized my strong interest in drawing and painting. Although I have not taken any post-secondary academic art courses, I have always maintained art as a part-time hobby and have more recently began to sell my work within my network.

  1. Why do you do what you do?

I simply love the ability to creatively express myself through art. I love the ability to create and compose aesthetically pleasing things. I love intricacy, and have always had a keen eye for detail. I am inclined to the beauty of nature, calligraphic art, and Islamic geometric design. These are the elements which are mainly present within my work. I also love making people happy, and have began creating custom name art pieces for my customers who often request for their loved ones names.

haneen-PicsArt_1397508903257“Haneen” by Iman Ali

  1. What role do artist have in society?

In my opinion, I think that the role artists play in society is largely dependent on the personality and perspective of the artist. This is because art is often a reflection and extension of the artist. Artists have the ability to inspire and uplift with their work. I strive to highlight the beauty of the world around us by capturing it onto a canvas.

  1. What piece of artwork do you most identify with?

It is hard to choose because I put a little piece of me in all of my work. However, I can say that I mostly identify with my ‘Jebena’ painting. I painted an Eritrean/Habesha coffee pot for an Eritrean newlywed. The coffee ceremony is an important and social tradition in Eritrean culture. Although I don’t drink coffee (boon) very often, I couldn’t help but feel something while painting this one piece, as it resonated with me and my culture, and my childhood of sitting next to my mother, aunts, and elders as they brewed coffee for their guests.

1238106_10151912741964907_2049688940_n“Jebena” by Iman Ali

  1. Is your work inspired by personal situations?

My work is always inspired by my faith, my culture, and my life experiences. 

  1. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

To believe in yourself and what you can contribute to the world because everyone is uniquely special in their own way.

  1. Professionally, what’s your goal?

I would love to build on my skills by participating in classes and workshops to learn from professional calligraphists and painters. God willing, I eventually want to create a home-based art business which I can sustain alongside my career in the social services, with the support of my loving husband.

Artwork by Iman Ali 1187010_10151828080054907_1082071722_n me-art

PicsArt_1399882060247          1378241_10151962347214907_220541359_n

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Hello N2 family, have you ever wondered if there were other people out there like you? People that had to close their doors on Saturdays because they didn’t want everything they owned to smell like tsebhi? People that cried not because Drake seemed to be speaking directly to them through the radio but because the onion vapours had successfully infiltrated every corner of their eyes? People that had to sit on plastic covered furniture as grown adults because their parents still didn’t really trust them? Fear not we are out here and we finally have a place to meet.

We understand that sometimes life gets confusing and google doesn’t have all the answers so let your community help you fill in the blanks. Whether those blanks are which university would fit me best? What classes I should take next semester? Or simply what do you think the calorie count is for tesme is because it tastes way to good to be healthy for you? We believe that information is one of the few limiting factors that keep us from achieving our goals so lets fix that, send us your questions.

“Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.” Oprah Winfrey

… and read books those are good for you.