Empty Bowls: Art To Feed The Hungry

By in News on February 14, 2012

For four years, Empty Bowls has been a charity event that not only promotes art and culture in the country but also benefits the needy in our community.

In exchange for a small donation of $15, guests not only receive a delicious meal of Bahamian soup and a beautiful handcrafted keepsake in the form of a ceramic bowl with a bread roll and a cup of fevergrass tea, but also the satisfaction that they are working together with other Bahamians to fight a growing hunger problem in the country.

Originally conceived by John Harton, a teacher in Bloomfield, Michigan, as an event where ceramicists made beautiful bowls in which to serve soup in exchange for a donation to give to food banks, the Empty Bowls charity event has spread to communities all over North America and even the world.

After meeting Harton at a ceramics conference, Bahamian ceramicist Joann Behagg took up the cause and with the help of a dedicated committee.

“Everyone has their own version of Empty Bowls – ours takes on a Bahamian flavor,” she says. “We’re promoting Bahamian culture through the arts. We’re trying to make people aware of things that are Bahamian so that we’re not downplaying our culture.”

Indeed the afternoon will be about all things Bahamian – this year they’re spotlighting Bahamian culinary delights by serving up such native staples as chicken souse, peas soup and dumpling, conch chowder, okra soup and pumpkin soup, as well as native fevergrass tea.

They will be served in handmade bowls by such local ceramicists as Joann Behagg, Nadia Smith, Alistair Stevenson, Katrina Cartwright, Neko Meicholas and Robert Pennerman – which guests can keep as a thanks for their donation.

Yet that’s not all the event has in store – besides celebrating culinary arts and visual arts, the charity event will have donated artwork on sale by such local artists as Rosemarie Laing, Danderia Bethel, Kennel Augustine and Don Russel, and will celebrate the performing arts with such local sensations as Jazz Etc, Nicolasena Davis Carter, Sonovia Pierre, and the National Children’s Choir.

Behagg points out that the event is a chance for artists to use their talents to benefit the community.

“Artists can give and artists can make other people aware of the needs of the community through their giving,” she says. “Through their efforts people not only see their work but also see that they have a heart, a conscience, and that they’re willing to share their talent with other people.”

“This event allows us to share our talents with our fellow Bahamians and make them aware that what you have is not just yours, it was given to you by your Father, and therefore he is asking you to help people who are in need – and people who are in need are hungry in our country.”

All proceeds from the event will go towards the Great Commission Ministries International who work to feed many hungry Bahamians each day with filling and nutritious meals. Whereas in a previous year their donations have also gone towards providing relief to post-earthquake Haiti, this year the proceeds will go toward buying materials to donate to Family Island communities still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Irene.

“When we speak to Bahamians they ask us where the money is going, and when we say it’s staying home they say they’re glad because they’re tired of money leaving the country. They want to help their own people,” explains Behagg. “We know people who don’t have at home, so we’d like to help our own this year.”

“Around the world this event helps people to feed food banks, but we don’t have food banks in The Bahamas, so it’s all self-help projects here. If we don’t help ourselves, people will just go hungry.”

This year’s event is a true reflection of all sectors of the community really coming together, says Behagg, because they have found strong support from the schools. Not only are schools like C.C. Sweeting donating soups and johnny cake, but many students have committed to making and donating their own bowls to the event, such as those from Queen’s College, St. Andrew’s, C.C. Sweeting and Kingsway – who has even been inspired to form their own Empty Bowls club.

“We visit schools and organizations to encourage them to get involved and attend the event to encourage people to be conscious of the fact that people are hungry, and we need them to take part,” she says. “Even if you think a dollar can’t help, a dollar can go a long way especially if lots of people donate one.”

Indeed, she appeals to the entire community to come and pass a lovely Sunday afternoon with delicious food and great cultural experiences, as well as fun games for the kids. Every little bit goes a long way in order to fight hunger and support each other, she says.

“This is not for a certain sect of society – this is for everybody,” says Behagg. “People need to come and support it because to split the money between all of our receiving organizations, we need to get a lot of response. We want Bahamians to come so we can make it a big Bahamian effort, not just help from a couple of people.”

Empty Bowls Charity Event is free to attend and will take place February 26, 1 p.m.- 6 p.m. at Queen’s College on Village Road. To place an order for tickets for bowls and soup at $15 per person, call 327-8109 – though they will also be available at the door.

Tickets will also be available from committee members who include Jay Mills Jones, Andrea Archer, Jessica Minnis, Sidney Knowles, Dolores Schaffer, Mae Thompson, Betty Vonhamm, Carol Hepple, Zena Builand, Bennadette Ellis, Goergina LaRocca, Evangeline Halkidis, Andrea Miller-Curling, Alistair Stevenson, Sabrina Skinner, Jemmany Cleare, Paja Bahatnajer, Erin Smith, Whitley Lewis, Giselle Cristiano, Beverley Smith, Linda Bryson, Lawrence Bryson and Nicky Johnson.

Sonia Farmer,
The Nassau Guardian
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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