Chongololos, Millipedes and my book Dust and Rain

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Climate change1 Comment

“Disgusting chongololos!” Auntie Stella said crossly. “Naughty children!”


We loved our chongololos – the Chewa name for millipedes. As children, we played with them in the rainy season. I quote from Wikipedia that “Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments; they are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda, the name derived from this feature.” Chongololos curled up in tight spirals when we picked them up. They were harmless creatures occasionally staining our fingers a yucky yellow in an attempt to make us leave them alone. My cousin Robert tucked his Chongololo pets into his shorts pockets and then forgot about them until, to the fury of his mother, they made a horrible mess when they were squeezed through our old-fashioned washing machine mangle. Those were the days that started my interest in nature and that made me write Dust and Rain: Chipo and Chibwe save the Green Valley

Wonderful Chongololos and my children

I went to Zambia in 1972. My return to Africa where I was born made me happy and gave me the pleasure of showing my children their first chongololos. They were no longer to be collected and crushed by mistake as Robert and I had done but seen as an introduction to the wonders of insects, arthropods, arachnids and animals and as creatures to be understood and respected along with antlions, flying ants, crickets, beetles, moths and butterflies.Life in Zambia gave us our love of nature and the environment. Because chongololos are harmless, prolific and loved by children, they became an ideal symbol for an education club about wildlife conservation and the environment,

Photo by Rabson Kambwali of a children’s ceremony about trees and their traditional uses
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Women writing Africa

Ruth Hartley Storytelling2 Comments

Last night I took part in the online book launch of Tina Beattie’s novel Between Two Rivers, a book I did enjoy reading. Among the panellists were Chiedza Musengezi, Kay Powell and Godess Bvukutwa. I knew some of the participants but I wish I had known everyone as the discussion was interesting and relevant not only to African women writers but to writers from every diaspora.

Tina Beattie’s book Between Two Rivers and Kay Powell’s book Then a Wind Blew

The discussion raised a conflict central to myself and my writing.

Who am I? What am I? Where do I belong? If I’m not African am I British? If I have a French passport but I’m not a native French speaker am I truly French? Will I always be a migrant and exile? Once I was a refugee and a criminal – am I still in what I write because of my heritage and my skin? My mother’s family went to South Africa 200 years ago as poor migrants. My father’s family planned a comfortable life as settlers and farmers in Rhodesia 100 years ago and failed because of the Great Depression. I was happy in the cosmopolitan metropole of London for 6 years. My heart will always belong to Zambia and my 22 years there during the liberation wars. I do, however, love my French rural life even while climate change and drought burn up my potager.

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I’ve got something MORE to Say!

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Art by Ruth Hartley, Dust and RainLeave a Comment

Reading my poem at the launch. Click on the image to see the video.

It was Sunday 26th June. The weather was miserable but the day was both interesting and enjoyable. John and I went to the launch of the second Women’s Voices anthology in the delightful village of Ponsan Soubiran in the Gers. The anthology’s theme is Transition and its title is I’ve got something MORE to Say! It is available on Amazon and well worth reading. I am proud to have a story and two poems as well as some drawings in the book. Along with many of the other contributors I read my poem from the book.

Sally Palmer talks about ‘I’ve got something MORE to say!’

Sally Palmer’s courage and hard work

It’s a brave idea to invite women to contribute stories and poems and not to reject any of them instead offering editorial help and advice. Sally worked with Anne Dickens and Mollie Brotherton and has produced an attractive book filled with fascinating stories, poems and drawings with a cover designed by Kiki Wood. I know how tough a project that is because I did something similar with artists in Zambia for many years. There isn’t a direct equivalence between the writers in Women’s Voices and the artists with whom I worked except for the respect it makes me feel for Sally and her team working as volunteers to create a new initiative that does benefit other people.

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Launch of the second Women’s Voices book

Ruth Hartley StorytellingLeave a Comment

Women's Voices book launch poster in blue and white
Poster for the Women’s Voices book launch

Transitions expressed in Women’s Voices

The launch of the second Women’s Voices book I’ve got something MORE to say will take place on Sunday 26th June in the Salle de Fete at Ponsan-Soubiran a small village in the South West of France.

I’ll be there to join all the women who have contributed their stories, poems and drawings to the book. There will be music and performances as well as some readings from the book. There will also be art on display, wine and cakes and books for sale.

We can picnic by the riverside before the event if we wish. It will be a very pleasant day with the opportunity to meet other writers, poets and artists and talk about what we do and why we do it. Among us will be published writers, self-published writers and aspiring writers and artists. I do believe that writers’ and artists’ workshops are important ways of encouraging self-expression through writing and art. All humans are creative thinkers and these activities are essential for our mental and physical well-being.

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The magical world inside a storybook

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Books by Ruth Hartley, Creativity, Dust and Rain, ImaginationLeave a Comment

Dust and Raim: Chipo and Chibwe save the Green Valley. – My books have arrived.

Where do we go and what happens when we open a book and read a story? Is the story only the product of the printed words on the page or do we create a new personal magical world that goes beyond the print? Where do our thoughts and imagination come from? Such gifts aren’t given us by schools even if good teaching can enhance them.

What is a story and where do they come from?

My story – Dust and Rain: Chipo and Chibwe save the Green Valley – has just been published but I’ve written many other stories. Did they come out of my present physical experiences or originate in my childhood history? Are they just dreamed up? Did I invent them or discover them? What happens to you when you read them? Will your reading of my story be different to the way another reader might see them or the way I planned them? I’d love to know what you think.

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