Just Food

Right to Food from a Faith Perspective

The Abstract

The Just Food exhibition explores the right to food, and was created by the Mennonite Committee on Human Rights, based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Eighteen commissioned artists from Canada and around the world were asked to interpret the meaning of the human right to food in two pieces of original art specifically created for this […]

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Art exhibition by Ray Dirks

The Just Food exhibition explores the right to food, and was created by the Mennonite Committee on Human Rights, based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba.1

Eighteen commissioned artists from Canada and around the world were asked to interpret the meaning of the human right to food in two pieces of original art specifically created for this exhibition. The artists were divided into six groups of three, with one Canadian and two international individuals in each group. The groups were asked to create artistic responses to two different texts—six human rights declarative texts each paired with a different passage from the Old Testament.2

The artists represented a wide range of cultural, economic, and faith backgrounds. One artist, Jossias Sitoe from Mozambique, lived on the street when he was a child. The content of his art comes from a place of having known extreme hunger and need. Alejandro Aranda has worked on behalf of marginalized groups in one of Mexico’s poorest states, Guerrero, for years. Bert Monterona is motivated by justice issues in his Philippines homeland. Tibebe Terffa was imprisoned, tortured, and deprived of food under the previous Mengistu dictatorship in Ethiopia. Isam Aboud comes from the Sahara Desert of northern Sudan, where temperatures hit fifty degrees Celsius in the summer. He knows the harshness of an unforgiving climate. Hashim Hannoon, a refugee from Iraq, knows the affect war has on food production and security. Annelies Soomers is a Dutch artist who has advocated for the least among us for years through her art. Jairo Alfonso Castelanos, from Cuba, understands what it’s like to live with ration cards. Ovid Charlette is a First Nations person of Canada, and discovered his artistic talents in prison. From a rich traditional base, he explores important issues with pain, skill, and raw openness.

The art presented in this exhibit challenges viewers to discover, contemplate, and explore food-related issues from a myriad of cultural, faith, political, and economic perspectives, sometimes in literal terms, sometimes more abstractly, some holding close to the quotes, some unveiled with broader brush strokes, but all created with integrity using the universal language of art.

Just Food exhibit sponsors included Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Canadian International Development Agency, Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, and Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery, among others.


Image 1: Alejandro Aranda. La Búsqueda (The Search).


Sources of inspiration

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and
well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing
and medical care and necessary social services.”

Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 10 December, 1948

Amos 5: 11-12, 14

“You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them. Though you plant lush vineyards, you will never drink wine from them.

For I know the vast number of your sins
and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.

Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed.”

(New Living Translation)

La Busqueda Alejandro Aranda-Downsize

Image 1. Alejandro Aranda. Mexico, La Busqueda (The Search), 2010. Linocut, 20 x 28 inches. Artist copyright.

Author’s reflection

My hands, your hands: our hands interconnect, brown, white, black and yellow. Weathered, hard & callused, tired and worn out hands, constantly moving, offering and working, looking for tortillas, wheat and rice. Hands that plough the land; hands that with every seed plant life into the centre of the earth. Hands that water and care for the fruits. Hands in solidarity that share, help, teach; that build a better world. Hands that don’t close in fists in order to punch, that don’t pull the trigger to kill, that don’t sign the papers for war, that don’t contaminate the air, the land, the water. Hands that don’t hurt others because of ideology, belief, prejudice or the color of one’s skin. Yes to the hands that come together as brothers and sisters, those who struggle together for the common good, those who organize in the face of misfortune, those who rise up before injustice, who give spirit and hope. Yes to those who place a hand on your shoulder and encourage others to keep going, who suggest that it is possible to live in a world that is different, to live in a world without hunger or thirst.

 Image 2. Alejandro Aranda. La Oración (The Prayer).

Sources of inspiration

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

Amos 5: 11-12, 14

La Oracion Alejandro Aranda-Downsize

Author’s reflection

In el troje or the barn, my feet feel the corn.  I step on the corn, sink and get lost in the corn. Jumping I make pirouettes and lie down and dream that I am the corn. A child of the corn: made of corn meal, color of a tortilla. I leave with my kite tied to a string of stars, the backbone of a giant animal. Above the moon is serene.

I am not cold or hot or thirsty.  I’m not envious or bitter, nor do I feel pain or hate or fear.  I am nothing, naked like the first man made of corn, open to be happy.

Image 3 and 4. Gen Tsuboi. God’s Plan 1 and God’s Plan 2.

Sources of Inspiration

Hillsboro resolution

“The peace of the world may rise or fall on the solution to the hunger problem
in the developing countries.” MCC resolved “to acquaint the churches
of our constituency with the relationship between over-consumption on the
part of North Americans and its effect upon needy people in the developing

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Resolution on the World Food Crisis, Hillsboro, Kansas, January 1974

Daniel 1:1-21

untitled 1 Gen Tsuboi-Downsize


untitled 2 Gen Tsuboi-Downsize

Image 5. Ovid Charlette. To Them Who Are Without.

Sources of Inspiration

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25 

Amos 5: 11-12, 14

To Them Who are Without Ovid Charlette

Author’s reflection

When nets are full and the community united, times are good, but beware of what lurks, of that which can break us.

Image 6. Rhonda Harper Epp. Bringing it Home: Tomatoes.

Sources of inspiration

2008 Food and Agricultural Organization Summit

“We pledge to embrace food security as a matter of permanent national policy… We firmly resolve to use all means to alleviate the suffering caused by the current crisis… to address obstacles to food access and to use the planet’s resources sustainably, for present and future generations… We commit to eliminating hunger and to securing food for all, today and tomorrow.”

Agreed by 180 countries at the High Level Conference on World Food Security, Rome, 5 June 2008

Leviticus 19:9-10

When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather up every remaining bit of your harvest. Also do not pick your vineyard clean or gather up all the grapes that have fallen there. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the LORD your God.

(Common English Bible)

Bringing it home, tomatoes Rhonda Harder Epp

Author’s reflection

We live in an awkward way; we import produce from warmer climates and pave over the most arable land in Alberta. We live with an uneasy knowledge of what that is doing to land, water and human resources in those warmer places, and with a futility of purpose in trying to counter economic forces that want industrial corridors not food production.

How is it that carrots and tomatoes that have traveled great distances can be cheaper than what is grown by the very hard-working market garden families that live in our  vicinity? When we grow them, we eat the crooked and misshapen vegetables. Why do the ones that aren’t regimentally straight get composted or ground into those mini or baby carrots?

Carrots and tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini, chickens and pigs; they grow here. We eat them here. We are starting to know that local food production can be encouraged… It is the most basic in-our-faces kind of food security.

Image 7. Hashim Hannoon. Peace and Happiness.

Sources of inspiration

2008 Food and Agricultural Organization Summit

Leviticus 19:9-10

Peace and Happiness Hashim Hannoon (1)

Author’s reflection

In this painting there is a family celebrating the harvest. In addition the coloured spaces, figures and other geometrical shapes represent a city. The happiness of the children makes them fly and play.

Image 8. Margruite Krahn. Soup and Pie.

Sources of inspiration

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 12

“The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has the physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for it s procurement.”

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, May 1999

Deuteronomy 14: 28, 29

At the end of every third year, gather the tithe from all your produce of that year and put it aside in storage. Keep it in reserve for the Levite who won’t get any property or inheritance as you will, and for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow who live in your neighborhood. That way they’ll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work.

(The Message)

soup & pie Margruite Krahn

Author’s reflection

Fall suppers in community centres and church basements

Young and old — taking and partaking

Simple, delicious, nutritious.

As I entered the church

Passed by a gentlemen carrying soup and pie

off to the hospital

A family member, a church member, someone in the community.

Come Lord Jesus be our guest

May this food to us be blessed”

Image 9. Bert Monterona. Food is a Human Right.

Sources of inspiration

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25

Amos 5: 11-12, 14

Bert Monterona Food is a Human Right 2

Author’s reflection

Philippines is a rich country in natural resources but millions of people are very poor. The wealth of the Nation is not equally distributed, the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. The leaders are corrupt, the capitalists are exploiting the masses, and the rich hold most of the positions in the government and they own the businesses and industries that have always exploited the working class.

Image 10. Tibebe Terffa. Color of Celebration.

Sources of inspiration

“Hunger is exclusion.  Exclusion from the land, from jobs, wages, income, life and citizenship.  When a person gets to the point of not having anything to eat, it is because all the rest has been denied.  This is a modern form of exile.  It is death in life.”

Dr. Josué de Castro, former Chair of the FAO Council, 1963

Lamentations 2:11-12

My eyes are worn out with weeping; my soul is in anguish. I am exhausted with grief at the destruction of my people. Children and babies are fainting in the streets of the city. Hungry and thirsty, they cry to their mothers; They fall in the streets as though they were wounded, And slowly die in their mothers’ arms.

(Good News Translation)

Colour of Celebration Tibebe Terffa

Author’s reflection

Harvest, thanksgiving, joy and love. The story of Matthew 15: 29-35 is ‘just food’ to me.



Ray Dirks is the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery curator. The gallery is a self-funded program of Mennonite Church Canada located on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


The complete exhibit can be found at Mennonite Committee on Human Rights, Just Food Art, accessed June 14, 2015, http://justfoodart.com/.