For this week’s posting, I’ll be taking you on a little photo tour of our new Bahá’í Centre (yeah, they use the British spelling here, the novelty of which never wears off for me!). It is still the same, sweet little one-room structure, nestled between the St. Cyr Post Office and Kimberly and Granny’s home on the side of the Carib Territory Road…but it has undergone a beautiful renovation.
This renovation took place last month, while Liz was visiting. Being the daughter of great visual artist Bunch Washington, and having a keen eye for aesthetics, she couldn’t help but notice the shabbiness of the Centre’s interior. The walls were covered with faded pictures of world flags, London, and Queen Elisabeth (of all people). There was a picture or two of the Holy Land, but they were matted on ratty old paper, and hung–quite unsymmetrically–in the inside of the doors. Here are a couple of photos that show the Centre in its previous state (notice Queen Elisabeth in the second photo, right above my head):
We asked Francillia if it’d be okay if we (gently) laid Queen Elisabeth and the shabby old London posters to rest, and re-organize the rest of the wall-hangings, and she was all for it. Little did we know that this simple act of re-arranging would unleash an outpouring of creative energy on the part of the neighborhood children and youth, resulting in a truly collective (and spontaneous!) beautification project.
When we began taking down those old posters from the Centre’s wooden walls, it was just three of us: Liz, Marvis, and myself. But pretty soon Dillon and Briana appeared. And then Vern and Emmon. And Delbert, and Pim-Pim, and Kira, and Barrinton. Everyone wanted to help…and before we knew it, the Centre was being transformed. But here’s the coolest thing about it: no one was told what to do. Everyone found their own space of wall, cabinet, or door, and set about making it beautiful with whatever means available to them. Someone found some glitter glue, someone else found some finger paint, someone else took those pictures of the Holy Land–geting soft and wrinkled around the edges–and cut and re-matted them so they looked brand new. That tiny Centre was spilling over with creativity, and empowerment, and inspiration. We’d begun early in the morning, and stayed there til the sun went down and we could no longer see the paintbrushes in our hands.
Here are some pictures of the NEW, and oh-so-improved, Community Baha’i Centre:
These pictures of the Holy Land now occupy the center panel of one of the walls. One of the youth, while standing back and beholding the pictures of those heavenly gardens, proclaimed: “One day, we’re gonna full a whole LIAT plane with Carib Territory Baha’is, and make our Pilgrimage. It’s gonna be so nice, man. Yeah.”
These lions were painted by Barrinton, an 18-year-old with great artistic ability. He also painted a scene with a waterfall and palm trees on one of the other wooden cabinets. When I walked in and saw him writing a large word under the lions, I admit that I got a little nervous…but was humbled to discover that the word he’d written with so much care and meticulousness was none other than “UNITY.”
Pim-Pim and I worked on this cabinet together. We thought this would be a good quote for the Centre since it’s featured in both “Breezes of Confirmation” (the first Junior Youth book) and “Reflections on the Life of the Spirit” (Ruhi Book 1), two texts regularly studied in the Centre…plus, it’s welcoming and friendly. Pim-Pim, also a gifted artist, loves to depict the ring-stone symbol, and recently made a beautiful watercolor painting of it with an intricate flower border. St. John Stoute, one of the Local Spiritual Assembly members, painted the red and yellow birds (or are they seahorses? Well, they are lovely, either way).
The colorful masterpiece on this section of wall was created by Mr. Dillon Bannis, who has just turned six. He worked on it all day long, and was exceedingly proud of his creation. You can see that he signed his name in block letters in the bottom right hand corner, and even returned to the Centre the very next morning to put the finishing touches on his work. It was clear how delighted he was to be able to contribute to this project in a meaningful way, and I often catch him stariing at his section of wall in admiration.
This 9-Pointed star was made by Marvis, who found some scraps of fabric, a needle and thread, colorful foam shapes, and some glitter glue…and a couple of hours later, produced this beautiful handiwork. I love it so much that I used it as my facebook profile picture for a couple of weeks.
This wooden carving of the Greatest Name was made by Marvis’ uncle, Petit Freire, a gifted wood crafter. He didn’t know the significace of the symbol he was carving when he first made it, but once he learned, he exclaimed, “Oh! I should have made a huge one, then!”
This cabinet was a collaborative effort, combining the talents of Vern, Kira, and Emmon. The other half, which didn’t fit in the picture, depicts a woman with a conversation bubble proclaiming: “Let truthfulness be your foundation!” Vern also made a banner with the quote “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illumine the whole earth,” but it fell down after a day or so. The glue we’d used, apparently, is not quite so powerful as the light of unity.
We painted the edges of the windows bright blue, like some of the holy sites in Akka and Haifa. This thin panel of wood is what we use as a chalkboard for the children’s classes and reflection meetings. And of course, the picture of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, beaming as He beholds the colors and vibrancy and warmth of the Carib Territory Baha’i Centre.