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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Attempted murder, political art and Mpapa Gallery

Ruth HartleyApartheid, Art, Mpapa Gallery, Politics4 Comments

Failing brakes

Ruth Hartley The Bombing of Chinkumbi Camp 1978 Oil on board Zambia National Collection

We were heading home after collecting our new Ford company car in Johannesburg which was then a dreadful place of police brutality, political protests and necklacing. Our long journey to Zambia was planned via a family stop in the Zimbabwe Lowveld. Clearing customs at Beit Bridge had taken hours so I was giving my husband a break from driving when some giraffe crossed the road ahead.

“You need to brake sooner,” my husband said.

“The brakes aren’t responding properly,” I replied. “Would you like to take over?”

My husband took over the driving and we turned towards the lowveld in the late afternoon. On a long slow bend, a young bullock left its herd and plunged across the road.

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Art, beauty, colonialism and Mpapa Gallery

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Colonialism, Creativity, Education, Mpapa Gallery, Zambia6 Comments

Style Kunda – children trapping birds

Discussion about art and beauty – and art and colonisation – is challenging. My past connection with Zambia and Mpapa Gallery, and my present connection with post-colonialism and my own art are about how I live my life. It has been said that Mpapa Gallery was colonial in its support for artists. Mpapa Gallery wasn’t and couldn’t be colonial for reasons explained in this article. Discussions about beauty and influences on one’s work go on in every artist’s life all the time even when they are private and not articulated. They are part of an essential process in making art. I will illustrate some different ideas of beauty with the paintings of the remarkable and modest artist, Style Kunda.

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