Tomorrow Mountain and the writing of Today’s Stories

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Education, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine21 Comments

Tomorrow Mountain today

A black and white photo taken from among trees across a wide valley towards distant mountains

The view from the top of Wedza Mountain towards the Bvumba and Chimanimani Mountains 1960 taken by Ruth Hartley

There were debts to be paid. I knew that. I hope that I’ve made a small repayment in The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

When I was a girl of 16 I lived with my mother and stepfather one day’s walk from Tomorrow Mountain. It stood out against the sky, a long shape humped at both ends like a sleeping lion with its head between its paws facing away from the Sabi Valley.

This red painting shows a lioness reating under a tree with her head on her paws. There is a hut in the background.

Lion, detail from mixed media painting titled ‘Exile’ by Ruth Hartley 1994

In the ChiShona language of Zimbabwe the mountain was called Wedza – the place you could get to tomorrow at dawn. I loved Wedza and the farm with all the passion of a romantic teenager.

My stepfather’s farm was called Eldoret – the little place of Gold. It was a small farm and its golden tobacco leaves did not make his fortune.

There were only 80 arable acres and my stepfather owed the Land Bank a huge sum of money. He wouldn’t be able to pay it off tomorrow or ever.

There were 2 roads to the farm from the nearby town, Marondera. One was the long high road along the watershed. The second shorter route crossed two river valleys that flooded when it rained.

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Paris, Africa and Otto Dix’s war paintings

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Art, Graphic novel, The Tin Heart Gold Mine4 Comments

One of Otto Dix's war paintings: An armless soldier uses his foot to play cards with two soldiers who have lost their legs. All three men have very damaged faces—one has a rubber tube to near his ear, another has a metal plate covering his lower jaw.

Painting by Otto Dix of WW1 survivors playing cards1

I have just returned from two nights in Paris where I visited a museum exhibition about Africa, saw paintings, and was reminded of Otto Dix’s war paintings — and his paintings of war injuries in particular.

We travelled there by train, which gave me many lovely hours of dozily dreaming and reading. It was a foggy, misty day so staring out at the landscape provided only patchy views of the landscape.

African artists and Trade

From the Gare de Montparnasse we rushed to the fantastic Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac.

I wanted to see ‘L’Afrique des Routes’, an exhibition that turns European perspectives about the African continent upside-down.

All humans originate from Sub-Saharan Africa. From Africa, humans have spread around the world. We are all one people, one humankind.

Africans were the first travellers, explorers, traders, adventurers and artists in our world and this exhibition is about that trade and those routes.

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Writing and Art – Therapy and Resistance

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Corpus, Creativity, Therapy, Writing, Writing Process0 Comments

Corpus

8 drawings are arranged on the gallery wall they show a woman with 5 arms, 5 breasts each containing a drawing of a child. She has wings but is rooted to the earth. Her head is that of Medusa and she holds scissors, a gun, a thread and a lead attached to a dog who is biting her thigh.

Charcoal and mixed media drawings on cotton rag paper titled “The ‘true’ History of my Body” by Ruth Hartley

“Corpus”, my art installation was shown at Peleyre in September 2016. Its theme may be summed up as the search for the spirit in the flesh.

It was well received which pleased me no end as my work is sometimes regarded as challenging and unconventional. I always hope that my art will be the start of a conversation between me and those who come to see it and even if they don’t like it very much I’m normally relaxed about that. As a writer and artist I am used to rejections though never indifferent to them but there was one response to the exhibition that rocked me back on my heels. It was from someone who runs a gallery with a great deal of sophistication and expertise.

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Mixing art and writing – can it be done?

Ruth HartleyArt, Writing1 Comment

Hello again! How many of you do what I try to do? My website — the one you are looking at now — is about both my art and my writing. The fact that they are both on my website and mixed together in my work is something I take for granted these days but I didn’t always. Maybe some of you have experienced the same doubts about mixing art and writing together?

Illustrated verse from a poem The Road by Ruth Hartley

I hope this post will raise questions.

For some of you making art and mixing it with writing stories may just be what you do anyway — either as separate activities or as part of the same creative endeavour. You may be a reader, or interested, or know a lot about the idea.

Films and animations join art and stories

My guess is that people who work in animations, bande dessinée, film, graphic novels, cartoons and comics will not see any separation between art and writing even when it requires different people working as a team to produce the result. The thing is when I was really young – at school and art school – I was made to feel that mixing my passions together was a weakness Though I wanted to do both writing and painting I was told I had to make a choice. It was greedy to want to do both. It was a sign that I lacked focus and I would never be good at either.

Dividing up art and writing

Is this division and the necessity to choose between art and writing something that other creative people experience? Should it be like that?

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The challenge to write The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Mining, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Writing Process4 Comments

My life in Zambia was a challenge but wonderful. I was lucky to have extraordinary and enriching experiences. It gave me respect and love for its people, its wilderness, wild animals and beauty. There aren’t many stories written about this period so that was an opportunity to write something new. It was a time full of confusion and conflict as colonialism ended and Africa struggled with underdevelopment and the fallout of the Cold War and it provided me with the political and historical background of The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

I met people who were passionate about Africa. They weren’t all good or altruistic but many were courageous. They inspired The Tin Heart Gold Mine.

Writing The Tin Heart Gold Mine was a challenge

A 19th century watercolour painting showing a dead elephant lying on broken gound near the elephant is the white-bearded hunter Henry Hartley. Several naked African men are pointing to the gold seam in a hole in the earth.

Detail of a painting by Thomas Baines of the discovery of Gold by the hunter Henry Hartley after shooting an elephant.

The Tin Heart Gold Mine had as long a gestation as my first book The Shaping of Water. The idea first came during a visit to an isolated safari camp in the Kafue National Park. It was close to the defunct Hippo Copper Mine, 26 years ago. It was an extraordinary sight — an ugly scar in the bush hundreds of miles from anywhere. It recalled tales of old explorers and gold-hunters who after punishing and dangerous journeys into Africa in the forlorn hope of becoming wealthy ended up with broken dreams. It made me think of Henry Hartley — no relation of mine — but a game hunter who accidentally discovered gold when an elephant he killed disturbed the earth as it died.

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The Tin Heart Gold Mine

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Art, Politics, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, Truth, Writing7 Comments

I am delighted to tell you about my latest book!

The cover shows a tin heart nailed to a tree with the book title in gold across it

“The Tin Heart Gold Mine” by Ruth Hartley. Cover design by Terry Compton Design

The Tin Heart Gold Mine is the story of Lara, a young and gifted wildlife artist. She lives and works in Chambeshi, a fictional African country whose increasing destabilisation by the Cold War results in riots and a coup attempt. Success has come early for Lara but she is not satisfied. She wants to understand the true measure of artistic worth. What kind of gold will give her life real value and merit?

Tim and Oscar

At an exhibition of her work she meets two very different men who have an enormous influence on her. Tim, an investigative journalist, becomes her friend. Oscar offers to make her rich by promoting her art. Lara likes Tim but is attracted to Oscar, who owns the small and unproductive Tin Heart gold mine yet is surprisingly wealthy and powerful. She wants love but how easy is it to tell the difference between love and sex in a new relationship? Does her thirst for success make her susceptible to Oscar even if his past and the source of his money are shrouded in mystery?

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A Citizen of Nowhere embraces the Nowhere World

Ruth HartleyArt, Corpus, Creativity, Imagination, Reading, Storytelling1 Comment

The Terra Incognito detail from the Spider Woman tapestry, with the words

Terra Incognito detail from Spider Woman by Ruth Hartley, from her Corpus exhibition

Hello Reader, are you a Citizen of Nowhere, like me? I celebrate being a citizen of the world. And, no matter your citizenship, you’re welcome in my Nowhere World of books and stories.

The Nowhere World is an imaginary dimension spun out of the dreams of writers like me for your pleasure and delight as well as for my own. Without readers, writers could not survive and without writers, there would be no readers. Without readers and writers, there would be no Nowhere World. You may ask, “Where is this magical Nowhere World and who can enter its charmed borders?”

“Anyone who wishes to,” I will say, “you, of course, and me.” It is a world where anything is possible. It’s a world where reality is always changing.

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