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.

Dust and Rain with Shona divining rods used to make decisions and predictions

There is an invisible world around us and inside us

How can we know there is an invisible world – is it simply one we can’t see without the help of microscopes, radar and digital imaging? Is the invisible world both outside of us and inside of us and how do we experience it? What do we even mean by invisibility? Is it simply the opposite of what we think of as the material world? Covid and climate change have taught us that the air around us is full of things we cannot see – viruses, bacteria, pollens, dust, moisture, carbon and oxygen. Some of these invisible things are also inside us. Some of these things are invisible to us because we are human and many of our perceptions are limited.

My original drawings for Dust and Rain

The ‘matter’ of the material world

Can we say with accuracy that we are just a material body – just a solid physical manifestation? Is that all that matters? I think that, as humans, we inhabit and are inhabited by the invisible, the spiritual and the mystical, as well as the material and physical world of touch. It is strange, isn’t it?, that we can only see forward with our eyes but somehow we know when someone or something behind us is observing us.

How do we ‘see’ what is invisible?

Chief Ikabonga and Imbolondo the black bull with a small sculpture by Mwalula

Sometimes we are afraid of something we can’t see that has a powerful effect on us – sometimes we want it. Sometimes it’s a response like fear, or love, or hate, or shame, or grief.  Sometimes it comes from inside us. Sometimes we find it easier if we can pin that emotion on an object or a person outside of us, or other than us.

Killing what we don’t understand

On May 8th of this year Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, apologised for the murder of thousands of women accused of witchcraft in the 17th and 18th centuries. Accusations of witchcraft and other forms of persecution still happen today. Perhaps these things happen because we find it difficult to understand our place as humans in a world that is physical and spiritual, visible and invisible, magical and material, factual and fantastical. We want to be separate from the things we fear will hurt us, but we can’t be good ourselves if we try to put all the blame for the things that go wrong in the world onto other people and things.

What I am exploring through my stories

My collection of African books for research

Many people suffered tragedy and conflict during the liberation wars in the Southern African region. I was living and working in Zambia at that time, so I studied to understand what was happening. Above all, I looked for ways to believe in and hope for the best for the people and places I loved. My books inevitably reflect my experiences and what I have learned from the people of this region of Africa about kindness, humour, a deep belief in spirituality, together with the power of creativity, music, art and the necessity of stories that help us to understand our world. Now the world is facing climate change and more than ever we need to work together to resolve the problems it is bringing us.

You can buy my book on Amazon.uk and Amazon.fr and at African Books Collective or at Bookworld or Gadsden Publishers in Lusaka. I hope it will be at the House Of Books in Harare Zimbabwe soon.

Please, please – do get a copy and read it. Then – if you think it is good enough – write a review about it and much more importantly – please buy some copies and donate them to a school or a library or an environmental group or wildlife club that you know and where the book will do some good and help raise awareness!

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