Canadian actor transforms treasured family kitchen keepsake into a one-of-a-kind art piece to raise funds for displaced communities
By Lauren La Rose
For Canadian actor Hamza Haq, his family’s decades-old cast iron pan was more than just cookware: it was a direct link to a treasured tradition.
“Like any South Asian household, a handmade roti is a staple of the household,” recalls Haq of the crispy, flaky flatbread he would enjoy during Ramadan and throughout the year. “It’s the pan that my mom’s been using since before I was born to make us all rotis.”
Haq says his mother recently retired the pan after more than 30 years of use, but he was admittedly sad to see it collecting dust in the garage. So, the star of the hit CTV series “Transplant” had a sudden impulse to flex his creative muscles in an entirely new way.
“I’m not a painter, but for some reason I had the impulse to do it,” says Haq, who portrays a Syrian refugee doctor in the medical drama.
Haq has transformed his beloved kitchen keepsake into a freshly painted cast iron pan which he hopes will find a new home — and help raise funds for refugees in the process.
“I always thought it would be cool that if I could use that piece of work to raise some money to continue to feed other families as well, then I think it would be a suitable gesture,” he says.
“I always thought it would be cool that if I could use that piece of work to raise some money to continue to feed other families as well, then I think it would be a suitable gesture”
Haq will be holding a special raffle for the custom artwork through a fundraiser for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, during Ramadan. Individuals will be able to donate online in increments of $5 to receive a chance for their name to be entered in a draw to win the custom piece. Haq has agreed to match the funds brought in up to $5,000 CAD.
The funds raised from the raffle will go towards cash assistance for displaced communities. Cash assistance is a lifeline for displaced people who may be struggling to make ends meet. It helps address their needs in a dignified manner by being able to allocate funds such as paying their rent, or buying food to feed their families.
Haq recently participated as a panelist in UNHCR On Mission: Syria, the first in a free series of virtual visits to country operations around the world to highlight how UNHCR is working to help forcibly displaced people. Haq was motivated to take action after participating in the event. But he already had plenty of inspiration close to home when it came to models of charitable giving: his parents.
“My father grew up not very affluent. He grew up in a very, very modest neighbourhood,” Haq says of his dad, an engineer. “When he could start working, he would do whatever he could to feed the people of the neighbourhood.
“He volunteers at the mosque. ‘He’ll be the first one to (say): ‘What do you need? I’ve got you. I’ll help.’” Haq’s mother, an organic chemist, helps out with meals.
“(She says) ‘Anytime they need something catered for group meetings, barbecues or their fundraisers, I’ll do that because I feel like that’s the way that I can contribute.’ And she’s always done that.”
For Haq, many of his warmest memories of gathering with family and friends are connected to meals. While he is admittedly not big on celebrations, his go-to request for birthdays — and most other days — is for one of his mother’s signature homemade meals, like a delicious rice dish of a veal or matar pulao.
He is hopeful his artistic creation will be able to provide much needed support to forcibly displaced people who may themselves be struggling to put food on the table.
“I think food is a basic human right”
“I think food is a basic human right,” says Haq. “And as somebody’s who’s had the God-given privilege of enjoying a hot meal every single day he’s been alive, I just have to do better. And this is my attempt to try to do better.”
To enter for your chance to win Hamza Haq’s custom artwork in support of UNHCR’s cash assistance program, visit his fundraising page.