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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Truth and storytelling, minds, hearts and history

Ruth HartleyHistory, Human rights, justice, Politics, Power, Storytelling, TruthLeave a Comment

Detail of installation drawing by Ruth Hartley

There are those moments when something you read strikes you so forcibly that you know you must embrace it and consider it carefully. When this happens to me it’s usually for an important reason. It may throw a clear light on something that’s happening in my life or in life in general that I need to grasp intellectually. It may arouse in me powerful feelings that my heart and soul recognise. It may do both. Because of the person I am, it probably means that I will have to follow up with online research or order another book to sit on my ‘To Be Read’ pile for when I’m not writing (or talking).

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Mpapa Gallery, westernised art and tribal heritage.

Ruth HartleyArt, Colonialism, Mpapa GalleryLeave a Comment

An interesting paper

Fackson Kulya, Mother and Child
Two Henry Tayali prints reproduced on the Artists’ Newsletter magazine

Gijsbert Witkamp has written an interesting paper on his blog Art in Zambia about Henry Tayali, and Fackson Kulya, two artists I knew through my work at Mpapa Gallery when Bert was away in Europe between 1979 and 1988. Bert describes Henry as an ‘academic’ artist and Fackson as a ‘folk artist’. This might describe the difference between a ‘westernised’ artist and an ‘authentically African’ one and relate to recent and important discussions about neo-colonialism and its effect on culture. As Zambia has very little recorded art history of the first 30 years after Independence, perhaps my post will be of interest in this connection.

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Writing and winning are wonderful!

Ruth HartleyStorytelling, Writing, Writing ProcessLeave a Comment

I am a prize-winner for the first time

Here I am at the 2019 Charroux Competition Event at Confolens when I was long-listed for a poetry prize. I don’t have a photo for this year because of Covid 19

I am thrilled to be a runner-up in the Charroux Litfest competition for my short story Truth, Dare, Command. Thank you Charroux Litfest and thank you Charroux organisers – Kate Rose and Barbara Sage. I know you do an unpaid, time-consuming labour of love. The theme of the competition was Truth and here are the links to the Charroux Litfest and to the competition winners and their stories. You can also download my story at the download button at the end of this paragraph. You may want to ask why I chose this subject matter?  All fiction and fantasy are more powerful when personal experience is at the root of story and character. The plot can be entirely invented, but readers need to trust a writer’s authority and truthfulness to connect with her stories. Stories open doors to new worlds and so they can be a road to liberation.  

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Beauty, culture, colonialism and the purpose of art

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Colonialism, Creativity, Installations, Religion3 Comments

Can standards of beauty be imposed on artists?

Altarpiece from M’other Art Deconstructing Damien Hirst Installation by Hamera and Hartley at St Peter’s Church Cambridge. The sound effects were of a washing machine cycle. The exhibition themes were women in art and women’s housework and cleaning and dirt used symbolically in art

What is beauty and is it an essential part of art? Is there such a thing as a universal standard of beauty in art? I ask because the questions are relevant to discussions about the impact of colonialism on indigenous cultures. That’s an enormous subject and there won’t be any quick or simple answers, just many diverging, coalescing and colliding viewpoints. What I believe is that the idea of beauty is not as central to art as its purpose – or to the desire that drives its making.  

Ideas to consider

I’ve assembled a few ideas for consideration. The first idea is mine – here it is –

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