We are on earth to grow bones

Ruth HartleyGods, Seasons, Truth1 Comment


Wheelbarrow,fork, sieve and compost.

It’s a sunny winter’s day in my garden and I’m busy digging compost for my raised vegetable beds. I’m doing a job that gives me great pleasure. I’m outdoors, the weather is kind enough, the air is fresh and the sun is bright. My fork goes easily into the ground to loosen the earth and my woman-sized spade lifts the dark friable soil easily. I chuck it onto the wire mesh resting over my wheelbarrow and scrape away until it all falls through leaving only bones and the occasional bits of plastic trapped by the mesh. There are many more bones than plastic. Interesting, I think. Gardening is physical philosophy and I’m an amateur – a lover that is – of philosophy and ecology but also a debutante who is always learning. I wonder if the production of bones isn’t the actual purpose of human life. They are the end product of human life after all and they do last thousands of years.

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From 1966 District Six in Cape Town to Zambia and back – the start of this writer’s journey

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Apartheid, Family, History, Mpapa Gallery, Politics, Racism, Religion, South Africa, When I Was Bad, Zambia13 Comments

Beyond reconciliation – a virtual walk through different faiths

District Six 1965
The family if the Imam in District Six who taught me Arabic in 1965

At the start of this week, I was invited to participate in this online event by Nic Paton, grandson of Alan Paton, author of Cry The Beloved Country. Thank you, Nic! The event was organised by the District Six Reconciliation Day Interfaith Walk. It was a healing and uplifting hour and a half and it has inspired me to tell the following story. The event began with the Call to Prayer from the Al-Azhar Mosque – a prayer that I heard every day in 1965 when I lived in District Six. This story is recounted in my memoir When I Was Bad before the destruction of District Six by the apartheid regime.

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Mary Wollstonecraft, nude statues & feminism

Ruth HartleyArt, Education, Feminism, Slavery8 Comments

From my bookshelf

Mary Wollstonecraft naked

A statue to honour Mary Wollstonecraft, created by Maggi Hambling and commissioned by Mary on the Green, has been erected at Newington Green. It depicts a small, stern-faced, naked female figure with a bush of hair on her pubic mound rising out of swirling silver shapes and it has caused a great deal of outrage and criticism online and in the press and media.

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Displaced people, refugees, immigrants, colonisation and war

Ruth HartleyAfrica, Displacement, History, War, Zambia2 Comments

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Quote from George Santayana  but many other people re-quote or dispute this saying)

The Old Drift – Photo by Reynolds 1937 – the place where explorers crossed the Zambezi River before the 1906 bridge was built

The Nuremberg Trial and the Nuremberg Laws

I write this post 75 years after the start of the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war crimes, antisemitism and genocide. It’s a day that grows more significant every year because we don’t seem to learn from history. 10 years before that trial the antisemitic and racist Nuremberg Laws were enacted by the Nazi regime to protect ‘German Blood and German Honour’. In the years between those two events, the Second World War took place and there would be almost no place and no nation in the world untouched by this conflict. John and I know this because in 2008 we travelled through 27 European countries – from north to south and east to west and we found no country without places of deportations and massacres and memorials to that war. It was a war that impacted Africa and in which African soldiers fought.

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Lines in the sand erased in the sea of history

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Colonialism, Creativity, History, Power, SlaveryLeave a Comment

‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’

Atlantic breakers Ciboure

There was a regular history exam question at my school that asked students to debate whether ‘the hour made the man or the man made the hour’. It usually related to a period of history that we had just finished studying. For example – did Britain’s survival in WW2 depend solely on Winston Churchill’s leadership or were there contributing factors independent of his personality? Was Cecil John Rhodes the only person responsible for British colonialism in Southern Africa? Did William Wilberforce end the Slave Trade in Britain by himself? Must Robert Oppenheimer bear the sole responsibility for Hiroshima?

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