Friday, 7 November 2014

Dental Surgery in Pau

Eight months ago I had a bone graft in my upper jaw. It was a sterile procedure done under local anaesthetic. I was losing bone and therefore a tooth and good dental health is good health overall. It took about an hour and was pain free - lots of stitches. Of course I had a swollen face etc afterwards but good after care and recovered well. Seven months afterwards my surgeon said it was successful and yesterday, eight months later he proceeded to put the implant in place. I will have another 6 months to wait before he knows if it is okay to go ahead with giving me a permanent false tooth. Again the operation was sterile - under half an hour, pain free but I behaved quite unreasonably like a baby. My surgeon is excellent and so was his team. I will write and thank him and apologise. Remembered traumas not actual ones made me fearful. My face is very slightly botoxed in appearance on one side but no discomfort. I have to take loads of antibiotics and pills for the moment but am fine. John has been brilliant about driving me to Pau to have the operations and all the previous appointments and follow-ups. Pau is 45 minutes away and sitting in waiting rooms is dull in the extreme.

Sunday, 21 September 2014



I am starting again. It is a treat to quote an intelligent comedian like Tim Minchin who advocates nuanced thinking. Nuanced thinking is needed when we consider the petition to ban Brett Bailey's Exhibit B. Like many of those writing about it I haven't seen it. It's 800k away from me across France. I have read  the arguments however and they are important to me and my art. 

Dividing the world into black and white is plain silly because the world is not divided into simplistic opposites and never has been.

Brett Bailey's Exhibit B does of course raise questions for artists and humans with thin skins or thick hides of whatever shade they are on the outside. Art is supposed to shake up ideas.

I am white and I have made art about Africa. I was born in Africa and lived most of my life there. I don't speak on behalf of other people. I speak of what I feel and think I know. What I think and know changes as I learn and change. The colour of my skin should not stop me saying what I feel unless I prevent someone else from being heard by saying it or if I defame someone. I should not be silenced but asked to listen.

Sara Myers' boycott seems to be based on the idea that Brett Bailey and all white South Africans are racist. They aren't. He isn't as far as I can judge.

Yes - there is racism – and bigotry in the world but banning an exhibition won't change that and a boycott may be inadvertently racist and bigoted if it doesn't have the whole picture.

The world and art can't be improved by claiming that there is a clear gulf between what's right and what's wrong, between what's black and what's white.

The world has never been that simple.

Going to war for simplistic reasons is not helpful.

Fighting for understanding is not going to war.

Banning, boycotting and destroying art is almost without exception bad for human liberty, freedom of thought and autonomy. If you don't like Exhibit B then go and make art of your own- write your own books – start a counter culture, create a new one. Bad art tends to disappear and die soon enough. What matters is that art provokes arguments and discussions, it can change perceptions, it can make us feel and therefore think and disagree.

Exhibit B and Brett Bailey have made us see people suffering but he wasn't doing it to humiliate anyone - what would that achieve?

There is resistance to this kind of show but not because people are callous or don't care or are racist but because it is painful. Guilt and responsibility are hard to handle but victims hate this stuff too. Any therapist will tell you that.

Perhaps this is a reason why Sara Myers is angry with it? I expect it would upset me very much too.

During the Slave Trade there were white British people who were made poorer by it, white people who had no connection to it and some who would have opposed it. The Slave Trade made some people very rich. Though some countries benefited greatly not all their citizens did. Lets hit the right targets.

Why did Bailey get such a bad press when it was okay for black Steve McQueen to make 'Twelve Years a Slave.' and for white Brad Pitt to produce it?

Perhaps because his show is more accessible than the film to demonstrators who need to vent their feelings about it.

The pain and discomfort of the 'exhibits' – the people who 'acted' is what all actors who choose to play grim roles suffer. It is certainly very difficult and upsetting to write or make art about abuse of any description.

Freak shows? Is not most reality television a freak show? Aren't freaks and celebrities often the same people? Don't we love freaks and learn to empathise by internalising their suffering? Don't artists and the creative process exist on the borderlines between 'normal' and 'freak'?

Brett Bailey is South African. He lives in South Africa where all races are equal under the law and people of all races and colours contributed to the fight for freedom. He has the right to speak on any subject including slavery. He has the right to be wrong. No one can shut him up because they don't agree with him. Free speech is one of the foundations of democracy.

Would there – or should there - have been this outcry if Bailey had had a black skin? Or been a black woman? Then again would a black man or woman make this kind of art? Well - yes they have – there are many examples in contemporary art.

Look at Kara Walker's 'Sugar Baby'

It looks wonderful and probably justifies its scale and expense. I would like to ask Walker what she thinks of Exhibit B and of Brett Bailey but I don't know what answer she would give. It does seems that slavery still creates divisions between black and white Americans. Why and how that gulf continues to exist needs to be the subject of another discussion.

I remember in Johannesburg in about 1991 seeing an installation by Penny Siopsis about slavery and its relationship to the sugar trade – she is a white South African.

So are we judging art or artist or skin colour when we compare these three exhibitions?

What I personally see as problematic about the Bailey and Walker exhibitions is their enormous cost and their position in the 'billionaire art industry of the world' but that is also a discussion for another occasion.

How would Exhibit B have been seen if the slaves represented were white and the slave masters black? Would that change perceptions? Does this exhibit say that having a black skin gives you more of a propensity to be enslaved than a white skin? I don't think so.

That is not the lesson of history. Slavery has been around ever since there were humans. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Hebrews, Europeans, Africans – all practised slavery. It seems there have always been forms of bondage and slavery. Today, though illegal in most of the world, it is even more profitable. The scale of the Triangle Trade, its acceptance as normal and its links to industry and commerce made it enormous and monstrous. The Holocaust was genocide on an industrial scale which makes it unthinkable though true but these terrible crimes were not the only ones to happen in human history. Jews and black people, whites and gentiles have been perpetrators as well as victims.

The human scale however is always personal and humans need to deal with these horrors personally and individually regardless of their outer covering of skin.

South African Resistance Art - another example - was made by artists of different colours.

I come from an involvement with art in Zambia where I facilitated artists, exhibitions and workshops before 1994 so I was also interested in the art of the other Frontline States and South Africa. In the 80's when I first worked with artists in Zambia I was called 'Madam' which I hated but things move on fast and that soon stopped. There have been great changes in Zambia and Southern Africa and its art since then.  At that time Zambian artists wanted to study at art school but the few white people who bought African art wanted intuitive and naïve art which they considered more 'authentic'. That split between artists and among buyers could be seen in South African art of the same time too. What I learnt from Zambian artists however, is that they wanted to be equal among all artists. No artist wants to be defined by their skin or for race to be part of the consideration of their art. They don't want to make money from phoney 'authentic' art but to make their own personal art.

This was my part of my installation about the significance of water to expatriate and African women.

This is my portrait of an artist from the inside – the inside of my skin. My flesh coloured not skin coloured inside is like everyone's inside.

It complicates the world to be simplistic about colour, class, race and people.

Skin, identity, gender and race are not fixed. My own family is mixed and unfixed. Humans, society, the world - they are always changing.
Tomorrow's world will not judge people by the colour of their skin but we will still be fighting exploitation, slavery and injustice and we will still be making art.

Look at these nuanced and powerful paintings made by  Bulelwa Madekurozwa.


Monday, 25 August 2014


I listened to an early Newsnight debate on the Scottish referendum on independence.

“Well that's that!” I thought. “Heart wins over head! The Yes vote wins! Stands to unreason.”

I felt - and feel - sympathetic.

“Its about the warm call of going home – to the family, the village – the tribe!” I told myself. “They'll go with it.”

At school in Africa my best friends were proud working class Scots 6,000 miles from Scotland. Jazz was their preferred music. Football their game. Distance enchanted their view of home.

The reality of Scottish independence will probably be less attractive when it's not a distant dream.

At the country club near my home in the bush we danced Eightsome Reels, Stripped the Willow and sang 'Auld lang syne.' and shouted 'Och aye!' We the English were in transition to the life of lairds and landowners with black peasants. When we went to the Mother Country we had to visit the Highlands. England's heart was not folksy enough for homesick colonials.

Colonial whites knew about tribalism in Africa. We used it to our advantage. We stoked the enmity between the Ndebele and the Shona. An enemy divided is an enemy defeated. We chose the most warlike tribe – the Zulu in South Africa – we could respect them – and put them in charge of 'lesser' tribes.

In history however, we were taught that the real achievement of civilised people was to join together, make treaties and alliances. We celebrated every union and agreement that meant peace even when it gave power to the top dogs.

Ah well! Alex Salmond has been fighting for independence for Scotland for decades and he will likely win.

What a shame!

He has thrown the discordant apple of choice into the heart of Scotland and split it almost exactly in half. Every nation needs its tribes and Scotland will soon have the dominant YES tribe and the discomfited NO tribe. Will they learn to love each other?

Will Scotland discover that it isn't run or owned by the Scots in any case but like Britain, is a franchise of global corporations? Salmond's independence is an anachronism that doesn't answer the problems of today's world. Salmond unfortunately is a man of fixed ideas. Will he have served the Scots well? I doubt it.

If Salmond loses perhaps he'll go into self-exile in Darien?

The Scots talk a 'braveheart' about being socialists who despise Sassenach conservative toffs but their socialism is also chauvinism and somewhat conservative too.

What happened to the international socialist dream of a better life for all humanity?

The fact that the English won't have the support of Scottish Labour will be a misfortune for England and Scotland. England might rejoice if Northern Ireland split. The Catholics could go with Eire and the Calvinists become a Scottish dependency. If the Scots were to commit the Crimea of invading the North-East of England and inveigling our last deprived working class community into a 'union' with them England would be much the poorer!

Suppose the worst. What if England breaks up into tribes. The Tower of Hamlets is fortified. The Glastonbury Wall of sound cuts off South-West England. Norfolk floods its land to keep out the Essex hordes. Oxford and Cambridge turn the Isis and the Cam into moats and go it alone.

Imagine with horror that the one stereotype of an Englishman held up for us to love might be a Farage of John Bull - all mouth and no brain.

Scotland, don't leave us!

Save us from ourselves.

We need you!

Thursday, 7 August 2014



I made this painting in April 1994 as a participant in the Mbile International Artists Workshop in Zambia.

It was the same time as the first democratic elections in South Africa which was where my heart was.

This is the largest of 3 paintings I called the 'South African series'. One was called 'Exile', one called 'Freedom Fighters' and this one I called 'Apartheid'.

The painting represents the evils of apartheid as I saw it and experienced it in the 1960s.

The blood-stained and damaged landscape is fenced with barbed wire and empty of people except for those who wait without hope by the roadside.

The panels on the left and right are about prisons. Those that incarcerate prisoners as well as those that imprison people's minds and bodies with fear, bigotry, censorship, racial and sexual discrimination.

Along the top are symbols of power and war. Among them are modern bombs and ancient spears, raised fists, crowns, masks of fear and superstition. As well as the white Nationalists, I chose these symbols to represent leaders of the Bantustans who used tribalism and ignorance to oppress their own people.

At the bottom of the painting are coffins symbolising those who died to end apartheid. They include Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists and others.

My painting could almost be about Palestine if I made some changes.

The fenced and bloody landscape would have to be full of suffering people. The prisons would still be there. I would however, include Hamas in the top panel as an oppressor of the people, along the Netanyahu government and along with all religious fundamentalists. At the bottom there would still be the same coffins – Muslim, Christian and Jewish and atheist. They would not be those of Freedom Fighters or heroes. The coffins would be of the victims of terrorism and fundamentalism – all those who have died in the last 4 weeks. I would include suicide bombers as victims but not heroes. The French children and Rabbi, the old lady Mrs Bloch, killed by Idi Amin at Entebbe. the King David hotel victims, the Palestinians – I could go back forever.

Instead I will say STOP NOW!

I would not choose to make a painting about Palestine as I am not a Palestinian. I might make a painting about how I would feel about Palestine and Israel.
I made an installation about the war in the Balkans in the 1990's. I showed an English tea table covered with a fabric on which were printed images from British newspapers of the ethnic cleansing. The tea cups and teapot were filled with blood. Next to them rested a copy of the War poems of Wilfred Owen and a daily paper. Ii is called 'Grantchester ten-to-three' after the poem by Rupert Brooke.

If I was to make a painting today about Palestine this is what I would have to try to show and express - one of my children is half-Muslim, the others are half-Jewish and that makes them all vulnerable to hate and race crimes and death threats. How can I protect them?

I ask you what you think I should put into my art today?

The ANC gave all South Africans a Freedom Charter – social justice without racism or sexism – rights for everybody regardless of religion and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Hamas has not and will not give the Palestinians a Freedom Charter.

It expects that they will prefer to die and not to live.

Whatever you feel about Israel and Palestine, please unite against anti-Semitism and racism of any sort.

Saturday, 26 July 2014


It doesn't happen as often as it should but the book I was reading made me cry.

It was Kurt Vonnegut's “A man without a country”

The tears ran down my face and had to be wiped away.

He is a very funny writer but I wasn't crying tears of laughter.

This is what he wrote that made me cry.

“Joe, a young man from Pittsburg, came up to me with one request:

“Please tell me it will all be okay.”

“Welcome to Earth, young man,” I said. “It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of: Goddamn it Joe, you've got to be kind!”

So what do you think?

I was thinking it is impossible not to feel passionate about what is happening in Gaza to ordinary people, women, children and civilians.

Passion is needed to make things better.

I was also thinking that the suffering makes it more important to be dispassionate about the facts that led to and created the problems of the Middle East.

If we aren't dispassionate at the same time we will undermine our own arguments.

Vonnegut talks about a one day massacre that killed 135,000 people. It was inflicted on the 'worst people in history' – those guilty of the Holocaust - by the 'good' people of Britain. It was done out of revenge or as an experiment and was not necessary to end the war.

Those same 'good' people refused to allow Jewish refugees to travel to Palestine even though there was no place on earth for them. Many died or drowned. Those same 'good' people refused to allow the creation of Israel until the Stern Gang and Irgun, both terrorist organisations, forced their hand.

The suffering on the people of Gaza does not make Hamas any better than it is.

The Holocaust does not justify the attack on Gaza.

What can we do? What can I do?
Be passionate about helping people who suffer.

Be dispassionate. It is not the suffering on either side makes people good or bad or justifies their politics or history.

Be kind to both parties to be fair. Be merciful to be just.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Ruth, with her novel 'The Shaping of Water' outside The Glass Key in Montmorillon

A wonderful second-hand bookshop and antique shop specialising in antique fabrics.
The Glass Key is run by James and Patsy Fraser who do an internet order service.
There are wonderful books to browse through and to buy. James and Patsy are very helpful and knowledgeable.

Lunch with James, Patsy and the other boutique owners during the book fair.

The book fair and discussions by writers. All French of course!

Montmorillon is a beautiful town between Limoges and Poitiers.


I didn't sell any of my books but gained a great deal of knowledge by meeting and talking to other writers about writing and selling novels. John and I had a very pleasant weekend indeed.
It is lovely to be back home again and once again working away on my next novel.
From the Glass Key I bought and read 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink. A really good novel. Highly recommended
I much enjoyed Dashiel Hammet's 'The Glass Key'
Also a book of poetry by Adrienne Rich
The Will to Change'
and as research for my novel  - 'George Grosz' 'Les annees de Berlin' 

Monday, 21 July 2014



I find Ms Schutte's article confused and confusing.

True, Mandela has been subjected to hagiography and reinvention. All important historical figures worldwide suffer in this way. Gandhi, Kennedy, Martin Luther King are all examples. Some do well out of it and some not. None of them will escape criticism forever or keep their reputations intact.

Time and historical research will rebalance and reassess Mandela's contribution and there will always be arguments about his value. That's good. Remember too, that Mandela was turned into a brand and a money-making legacy on his death bed. He was denied dignity as his life ended so others could make political capital from him and this was done by his immediate family and by senior politicians, none of whom were white. This behaviour may be reprehensible but it is also human. Human behaviour is human behaviour – not white or black behaviour.

It is true that black leaders throughout post -colonial Africa have been given an unjustifiably bad press from the West. Nevertheless leaders will always be criticised and deserve to be criticised because they will all inevitably make mistakes and sometimes prove corruptible. Mandela and Gandhi included. What is needed is for people to be well-informed and not leap to defend or decry any leader because of the colour of his skin or his culture or traditions or religion. Leaders ought to be judged by the egalitarian way they fulfil the constitution of their country.

Ms Schutte's anger is directed against rich privileged whites and neocolonialism. Justifiable? Useful? Relevant to the South African situation? One might ask how helpful is her polemic in effecting change for the better for those she advocates for – the poor black folk who lack agency. After all there is a new colonial power searching for mines and farms in Africa. It's emissaries are relatively poor Chinese workers. Everything will change.

Ms Schutte talks about the 'dominant discourse' but what does she mean exactly? I take it, and I apologise if I am wrong,that she means to identify those who hold power and have control of society but she uses this term rather broadly. Is she talking about the global dominant discourse or specifically the dominant discourse in South Africa? They should not be conflated even where they impact on each other.

Ms Schutte quotes Richard Dyer's book 'White'. I haven't read it but it sounds interesting. He is talking she says, about the construction of Western imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries which was undeniably built upon racism and the slave trade. Does his analysis fit today's situation as well?

Global power and wealth has changed and is concentrated in a few giant corporations who are controlled by a small number of individuals. This may be disturbing and frightening but how white is this concentrated power and is the selection of the powerful based on race and wealth or just wealth? In the present mix of global power are there not also people from the Middle East, the Far East, Russia, China and Latin America? If there is one dominant group its not static but changing all the time especially with regard to race and culture.

Power today may in fact be 'colour-blind'. I wonder if Ms Schutte isn't directing her energy at a moving and changing target and doing her cause far more harm than good by indicting 'whiteness' as if it is the main and only cause? According to Dyer 'whiteness' is not located inside the physical body and therefore can be an attribute of people whose skins aren't white. Schutte though, returns to the surface colour of people to make her point. She is rather selective with facts and analysis which weakens the validity of her argument.

The dominant power/discourse today probably doesn't care about race or the colour of anybody's skin. It may also be unconcerned if ordinary folk regardless of their colour, hate and kill each other because they are black against white, Sunni against Shiite, Catholic against Protestant, fundamentalist against free-thinker. By identifying the enemy primarily as white Schutte could be unintentionally arming racism and racists and losing potential allies because they have white skins.

I have seen very unpleasant examples of extreme white racism among some white Africans but isn't this a small group who are noisily vociferous when provoked? Attacking this group might make them implode in fury damaging the innocent when they do. Better to take the oxygen of angry attention away from them. My guess is that most whites are ashamed of apartheid and racism but if they are made to feel guilty about it they will become reluctant to adapt. That's human too. Learning how to live together can't be done through blame and humiliation. That was how apartheid managed and enforced separation.

Racism is not exclusive to pale people in any case. All people were damaged by apartheid. Racism, nationalism, chauvinism and tribalism start from the personal and they have to be understood and defeated there. People of all gradations of colour need to do this. Providing education and information gives the power to ordinary people to make up their own minds and change their own prejudices. I doubt that Ms Schutte's tactic of haranguing one group of South Africans in her article entitled 'Dear White People' was effective in changing attitudes. Those who approved of it were already in agreement. To change the minds of people you have to first show them respect even when you disagree with them. Mandela understood that.

At the moment there may be more well-off white people in South Africa hanging on to any vestiges of privilege they can than there are well-off black people who feel threatened by the poverty around them. Its possible that both groups might together form a new South African elite that disregards the poor. How do you change that for the better? Not by reducing people to their surface colour but by understanding their fears and their aspirations.

Can the case for change be made without referring to skin colour?

Monday, 14 July 2014


 'The Shaping of Water' Ruth Hartley
Book signing and Question and Answer Session at Peleyre.

Ruth answering questions about her novel 'The Shaping of Water' Jacky Barry leading the discussion and the Question and Answer session.

Display of 'The Shaping of Water',  books and Zambian artefacts

The audience

Zambian art at Peleyre for the book signing of 'The Shaping of Water'
Many thanks from Ruth to Jacky Barry and John Eden and Peleyre for hosting this wonderful session.
Many thanks to John Eden for making the video of Ruth Hartley talking about 'The Shaping of Water'


Thursday, 19 June 2014

'The Shaping of Water'. The People's Book Prize and Montmorillon Book Fair

Here is the video about the book - please click on the link.

Please support me by tweeting the People's Book Prize and voting for 'The Shaping of Water'

You can now vote for The Shaping of Water by to win Fiction category!

Here is all the information about my book on my website. Do look at the video about the book.

On Saturday and Sunday I will be at this Book Festival  - it looks like a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

I will be sitting outside James and Patsy Fraser's Book and Antique Shop "The Glass Key" with 'The Shaping of Water' hoping to find more readers for it.

I write because I have stories to tell - I want readers to enjoy my books. I am looking for more reviewers for my novel. Feel free to write one about the book.

Here is an unsolicited  review of 'The Shaping of Water' by Helen Baggott from the Amazon site.

"Ruth Hartley has produced a novel that covers a period in modern history that's remembered for brutality and injustice. With our ability to reflect on those past events, there could be a sense of impending doom. Instead, the author has created an air of change - you could almost smell it in the air.

The story is told through the experiences of a number of women, all connected to the region of the Zambezi Valley and the man-made lake that shapes the water. Through their lives we witness the birth of new states and new regimes.

A common thread, violence and change aside, was the struggle to develop and nurture the earth - for gardens and for food. The determination to turn a patch of dust into something full of life and life-giving seemed a metaphor for the struggles in this land.

Whilst I wasn't necessarily drawn to Charles and Margaret - the two main characters, I did feel the others were carefully crafted and complete. In particular, Jo and Marielise had a passion for their country and each other. That passion leapt from the pages. Perhaps the staidness of Charles and Margaret was a deliberate contrast?

With her wealth of knowledge, the author has created a piece of work that is immensely detailed. At first I was a little baffled by the movement of time - back and forth. But I decided to go with the flow, enjoy each chapter and accept that I would eventually find my place in time.

The book contains so much factual information that there were times when I found it a struggle to fathom the details. But this is a complex subject and perhaps it shouldn't be an easy read - although occasionally I found the facts were being shared in a heavy-handed manner. This is the challenge of writing a novel based on such an involved topic but on balance, the author got it about right.

A little polish would have made this novel really sparkle, but it's still a gem.

Edited 17th May: I've thought long and hard about this wonderful book and feel I've been a little harsh with my four stars - so I'm delighted to 'up' my review to five stars. Yes, a little polish is needed here and there - but it is one of the best books I've read this year."

I am grateful to all my reviewers - I learn to write better because of them.

More than anything I want readers but I also write to make a living so I need more readers - more discriminating readers - too.

My next novel 'The Tin Heart Gold Mine' is set half in Africa - half in London. In it  Lara learns how to make art, but not how to make money; how to make war - and how not to make love.

I am also writing a memoir  'A Bad Girl in Search of Love' which will both shock and delight you!

Thank you Troubador Publishing!

Friday, 30 May 2014

"The Nature of Boundaries" Ruth's art in the chapel at the church at Mazeres

The archway into the chapel
The ancient church at Mazeres

 I began work on these panels in 2000 using my body as a template and playing with the ideas from my MA in Women's Studies I was questioning the preconceptions we have of our separateness as a limited being contained in a skin. In fact the boundaries of self are porous, changeable, and often indefinable.


Panel Four

John made all the supports for the18  paintings and one for the transparent panel of new work.
I decided that the work would be better free-standing. The church is beautiful but a listed building and the walls and floor are not easy to place work on. My art is part of an exhibition by several other artists in the main body of the church. The problem is of course lighting.

Panel Five
The new panel created for this exposition.
It is a work in progress. I would like to make it in better materials but as usual work with what I have or can afford.

 This panel is called Margin of Error and features a transparency of a recent photograph of my face taken by Geraldine de Haan, an artist and photographer.

Panel Five and Panel One

 Panel One and Panel Two

Panel Four and Panel Five

Panel Two and Panel Three

Panel One and Panel Two.
John is sorting out the internal lighting for Panel Five.
Contrary to the apparent size of John the panels are 8 ft high approx. and the figure is life-size. My life-size and shape 14 years ago.


18 paintings questioning our understanding of how our bodies contain us and keep us separate from other people and the world around us. My art asks questions about life. It also questions the art market and how art is selected, promoted, sold and owned.

The paintings can be rearranged and reconfigured in different ways. Some of the quotations are philosophic ideas borrowed from Cixious, Ettinger, Kristeva; some are inventions of the painter.

Acrylic and oil stick on canvas. Panels constructed by John Corley.


  • I am fluid and my body is a process
  • Unwriting the body
  • Materiality is necessary to manifest desire
  • If I wrap my skin around me, close my eyes . . . what do I see?


  • The boundary between flesh and spirit is imprecise.
  • Paint is a skin.
  • Where are my edges?
  • Scratch the skin and the memories leach out.
  • Earth is the second disguise. Paint is the third disguise.


  • Texts require surfaces
  • Cover spirit with a skin and then it can be named.
  • Reach. Skin is the original mask/disguise.
  • Love is the confusion of boundaries.
  • Grounded.


  • To find the essential requires much splitting.
  • Hold. The embodiment of my concerns.
  • The nature of boundaries
  • Mupane. The caterpillar sheds its skin.


  • Margin of Error. 2014 Acrylic drawing on Plexiglas.


18 Tableaux qui questionnent nos connaissances de comment nos corps nous contiennent et nous gardent séparément des autres gens et le monde qui nous entoure. Mon art pose des questions sur la vie. Il questionne aussi le marché de l’art et comment l’art est sélectionné, promu, vendu et possédé.

Les tableaux peuvent être redisposés et reconfigurés de manières différentes. Quelques-unes des citations sont des idées philosophiques empruntées de Cixous, Ettinger ou Kristeva, quelques-unes sont des inventions de l’artiste.

Les médias sont acrylique et oil stick. Panneaux construits par John Corley.


  • Je suis fluide et mon corps est un processus
  • Déconstruisant le corps
  • La matérialité est nécessaire pour manifester le désir
  • Si je m’enveloppe dans ma peau et ferme les yeux…qu’est-ce que je vois?


  • La limite entre la chair et l’esprit est imprécise
  • La peinture est une peau
  • Où sont les limites de mon corps ?
  • Grattez la peau et les souvenirs s’échappent
  • La terre est le deuxième déguisement. La peinture est le troisième déguisement


  • Les textes exigent les surfaces
  • Couvrez l’esprit avec une peau et ensuite il peut se nommer
  • Jusqu’où? La peau est le masque/déguisement original
  • L’amour est la confusion des limites
  • Enraciné.


  • Pour trouver l’essentiel il faut beaucoup d’élagage
  • Tenir. L’incarnation de mes inquiétudes
  • La nature des limites
  • Mopani. La chenille mue.


  • Marge d’Erreur. Dessin de 2014 en acrylique sur plexiglas

Monday, 26 May 2014

1 About 'The Shaping of Water'

The Shaping of Water is unique.

It is a story that has never been told but that needs to be heard. It is set in a little known part of the world that is beautiful, fascinating and challenging. The historical events did take place but they are part of a history that is not widely known. The characters are fictitious but entirely believable. The novel weaves together the characters, the lake, and the historical events with the themes of political damage, environmental damage, damaged relationships and the survival of individuals. It is a very readable book with a compelling plot.

2 The central characters in the story.

The main characters are all very different to each other. The times they live through are exceptional. Charles and Margaret are a conventional couple from a colonial background, but committed to the land and people of Africa. Marielise and Jo are radical South Africans and Freedom Fighters who want to build a different kind of future. Manda and Nick each have a troubled past and have to survive a changing world, as do Natombi and Milimo whose village home lies drowned under the new lake.

3 Affect your heart, change your ideas, remain in your memory.

My readers have said that my novel does the three things that any good book will do and any good writer would hope to make happen.

It makes the reader care about the characters even those who are bad or mistaken.

It offers a new perspective by understanding what motivates these characters. It opens the door on new places and different cultures

It makes the characters, the places they loved and lived in, and the risks they took for their ideals and beliefs memorable.

4 My life in Africa

I was born In Africa and have spent most of my life there. A Chinese proverb says it is a curse to live in interesting times and I certainly have. It is true that during my years in Africa I have experienced pain, loss and some degree of trauma as I grew up in a world of racism and Apartheid. I have however learnt very much and my life has been enriched by the generosity and the dignity of the people I have known who have suffered much more than me and shown much more courage as they tried to change that world and create a better one. Some of this experience I have tried to reflect in my novel.

More than anything I grew to love Africa, its people and its landscapes. This is the place I write about in this book.

5 Art School in Cape Town.

As a child I lived in a world of books and fantasy inventing stories in which I was a cowboy hero. I drew comic strips of these stories and had lucid dreams in which I lived them out. At Art School I discovered that women were second class citizens. Racism and sexism made the life and art difficult. For a large part of my life creativity came second to political action, to family and to children. Somehow I kept secret notebooks and continued to try to paint and write, to dream and to fight for women's rights and for the rights of all humans. For the last twenty years writing and making art has been my focus.

6 Travelling around Europe

I always wanted as a child to 'see the world' – to travel, to learn, to look at art and architecture, but most of all to find out what life was like for other people in other places. It is my good fortune that I have a partner who wanted to do this also. As soon as we stopped paid employment, we set off for a year in a camper-van and made a huge figure of eight journey that took us from England all over Europe, to the Arctic Circle in Norway via Finland and the Baltic states until we looped down again through Croatia across Turkey and back to France through Greece and Sicily. We saw extraordinary landscapes, tragic and inspiring histories and fascinating and amazing people. Art and poetry and writing has come and will come from this experience.

7 Settling in France

My partner and I were looking for a way to live better, more simply and more economically. Every day we have experiences that teach us something new. Life is a challenge and a pleasure and we enjoy our rural country life. Most of all it has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my creative life and in this I am generously supported by my partner.

8 Next.

Writing and making art, while also working for Women's rights continue to be occupy me fully. My next book, under the working title of 'The Tin Heart Gold Mine', is an exciting mix of wild Africa, London city life, art, sex and political intrigue all experienced by Lara, an artist, but also a mother who does not know which of her two lovers fathered her child, Tim the journalist – or Oscar, owner of the Tin Heart Gold Mine. For “The Shaping of Water” I used and recommend the excellent Troubador Publishing. Like me, many good writers of quality books have no option but to self-publish as the world of books, publishing, marketing and digital changes and competition increases.