A&E » Arts

Beauty in service

Multi-media show finds wisdom, compassion, vision in selfless dedication



What: Beauty and Transformation Show

When: Saturday, April 8, 7:30 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $15

Whether upholding free trade practices in West Bengal, dedicating 15 years to humanitarian work in Ladakh or, in Brian Harris’s case, photographing selfless acts such as those mentioned above, lesser known Mother Teresas and Gandhis of the globe seek to better the worlds they live in.

Harris has united his own aspirations with those of his subjects, showcasing his latest multi-media presentation Beauty and Transformation Saturday, April 8 at MY Millennium Place.

"I hope audiences get a taste or introduction into the lives of deep service," Harris said. "These people they will see have chosen a life of serving others. I think that is a very powerful and beautiful message and increasingly important in the world we live in today, where we are faced with some horrible examples of what human beings can do to each other."

The off-page storytelling extravaganza unites photography, videography, sound recordings, poetry and narrations to tell the incredible tales of four subjects Harris encountered during a five-month adventure in India that explored both Hindu and Buddhist culture.

Each subject embodies the qualities necessary to be of service to the world: beauty, wisdom, compassion and vision.

Under the heading of Beauty, Raja Banerjere, a fourth-generation owner of the Makaibari Darjeeling Tea Estate in West Bengal, practices a model of equitable community and environmental consciousness through his business operations of organic, biodynamic, permacultural and fair trade practices.

"The tea estate’s fair trade and relationship with its workers, these are all different ways of bettering people’s lives," Harris said.

"This is also true of spiritual traditions. The idea is to show people of service from different perspectives. It is one of the themes that threads through the show."

Wisdom: Harris pulls back the curtain to look at the extraordinary life of an 86-year-old Indian spiritual leader who cares for 100 cows and one elephant as an act of devotion to the Divine Mother.

"This part of the show offers the audience a taste of what it is like to experience the world as an actual living embodiment of the divine," Harris said.

Compassion couldn’t more aptly sum up the life of Cynthia Hunt who for the past 15 years has dedicated her life to the people of Ladakh’s remote Himalayan Villages.

The quality of "vision" is exercised in both a metaphorical and physical sense as Harris documents the incredible feats a Chitrakoot eye hospital carries out. The camp is one of many eye hospital camps sponsored by Seva Canada, an organization that funds programs to alleviate human suffering, particularly through assisting preventable blindness.

Harris records his impressions of one of the camps in his travel journal: "This jeep takes us to an eye camp that will serve 800 people in one day," he wrote. "Day in and day out, this hospital feeds over 1,000 patient and staff mouths from a kitchen that cooks food in huge open pots that sit atop wood-fuelled fire pits and metal gas rings…. The tank is continuously fed with cow dung, wheeled in by a wooded hand-cart by a woman whose sole job it is to shepherd the dung from the hospital’s heard of cows a half a kilometre away. While doing this she cares for her infant son in the 35 C heat…. There is beauty in this, but not the kind that brings pleasure or causes desire to arise. The beauty instills awe, fear and can undo you."

A man of service himself, Harris will share his more than 35 years of photography and storytelling talents at the Seva fundraiser.

Tickets are $15. For more information or to donate, visit www.seva.ca/show.