Flying backwards to yesterday and arriving in tomorrow’s world

Ruth HartleyBooks by Ruth Hartley, Creativity, Family, The Shaping of Water, Visual Arts, ZambiaLeave a Comment

Flying backwards to yesterday

In the forground a young blond girl cuddles a rabbit. Behind her are English cows in a field. Behind that are 3 different herds of African cattle returning home to their kraals at sunset.

‘Other Sunsets’ an oil painting by Ruth Hartley in the Lechwe collection



Was I flying backwards into a nostalgic and unreal fantasy about a past life? Even now Zambia feels like home to me, the place closest to my heart where I feel most deeply rooted. I lived in Zambia for 22 years and my dream had always been to have a plot of land, build a cottage on it and have a garden of flowers and vegetables, birds and insects, where I would always  live.



A time of change, of leaving and of returning

The Food Lovers Market at one of the big shopping malls in Lusaka

When I left Zambia in the 90s it was starting to recover after a time of political upheaval and change. There was major deforestation around the city. Many indigenous trees were being cut down for firewood so that people without electricity could cook food. I knew Zambia would be a very different place today. Lusaka, the capital city had grown enormously. I knew there were new shopping malls, offices, roads, houses and suburbs. It was a long flight from London but when I finally escaped from the airport I found myself unexpectedly in a garden city.



Lusaka – the garden city

A women sits under a tree with potted plants for sale in front of her

Selling plants at the Dutch Reform Church market in Lusaka

Zambians have embraced gardening, my friend Guida, tells me. I am stunned by how lovely the city looks. It is the end of the rainy season and so it is green and lush. Walled gardens spill out generously onto the road verges. The trees are huge and the varieties of flowers and plants are beautiful and extraordinary. I shake my head over the water bills that must be paid. Even in the poorer areas people are growing and selling plants and flowers. The house where I am staying has lemons, mangoes, grapes, raspberries, granadillas, guavas and roses. Such abundance fills my heart with joy.




Zambia – a country of artists

Cynthis zukas gestures at a painting in the Lechwe Trust Gallery. Wiulliam Miko is on the left

Cynthia Zukas explains the choice of art for the Lechwe Trust

A group of Zambian students sittin in the Lechwe Gallery

Art students from the Zambia Open University and Evelyn Hone College



When I lived in Zambia, I worked with artists who inspired me by their creativity and commitment to making art. Now on my return I am taken by Cynthia Zukas, a dear friend with whom I worked, to see the brand new Lechwe Trust Art Gallery. The gallery is the culmination of years of work and dedication by her. It is a treasure house of Zambian art kept for the nation. I meet old friends and new young artists, many busy working in the latest, new media. Zambian art and artists are alive and well and their work is as fertile and productive as the gardens of Lusaka. I also visit Gallery 37D and the stART Foundation run by Claire Chan. I am blown away by the art I see. Each gallery is also surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Arriving in tomorrow’s world

Cordyla Africana or wild mango in the forest on the old race track in the Lusaka Show Ground

Ruth with her new granddaughter












There are new bookshops in Lusaka. In Grey Matter I find a copy of my novel The Shaping of Water – that is thrilling – thank you Gadsden Publishers. I visit the old race course in the middle of Lusaka. It is now a Forest Reserve and in it I find 2 wild mangoes Cordyla Africana I planted 24 years ago. They are tall and doing well. All around me in Zambia, I see industrious, creative, kind and positive people working for a a better future for their children. Zambia is a country of energy and hope. I am here on a special visit to my family and I hold in my arms that small miracle – the blessing of my new grand-daughter. Today I have arrived in tomorrow’s world and I know that with with. these people in it, it will be a good and happy one.

Ruth holds up a copy of her novel The Shaping of Water which was on display in the Grey Matter bookshop



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