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.



Lutanda Mwamba was a student in my class when I was teaching art at the International School of Lusaka in about 1982-3. He was a quiet and shy boy of about 14 or 15 years who appeared rather isolated among the other students. He was unusual, as I discovered subsequently. ISL students came from relatively wealthy backgrounds and many were from expatriate families. Lutanda's devoted and hard-working mother, a single parent, lived in Chilenje and the family were poor, but she was determined that her mixed race son should have the best education she could afford. Lutanda had a very long, very hot walk to school each day. This was but one of many things that put him at a disadvantage among his fellow students.

I noticed Lutanda at once as he showed a natural talent for drawing in my class. When I asked him about his future plans he told me that he hoped to be an electrical engineer. I suggested to him that art was a good way to make a living in a place like Zambia which offered at the time so few opportunities to people from poorer backgrounds, but Lutanda was set on his course. Another ISL teacher had told me of Lutanda's long walk to school and from time to time one or other of us would give him a lift back to his home. He never wanted to be taken all the way. I think that he was not given an easy time in Chilenje either, though he always had one very good friend there, another artist, David Chibwe. I had an unused bicycle at home and in the end I gave that to Lutanda for his school journey.

I was obliged to give up teaching as it did not fit in with my husband's work and I did not see Lutanda again for some years. A few years later I was working at Mpapa Gallery in the Pilcher Graphics building in Cha Cha Cha Road. One evening driving back from the Lusaka Showground I passed Lutanda and David Chibwe and recognised Lutanda at once, though he was now very tall and thin and had dreadlocks. He saw me also and came around to my home that same day. He told me that he had got his GCSE exams but had not been able to get any work at all apart from occasional gardening. He had left home and was finding it hard to afford food. He still wanted to become an electrical engineer.

I tried to help Lutanda find employment that was more appropriate for his qualifications and abilities but any job was hard to find. Not even Lewis Construction was able to help. Finally after consulting with my partners at Mpapa Gallery- Cynthia Zukas, Joan Pilcher and Patrick Mweemba, we decided to offer Lutanda a trial period as a gallery assistant. Also at this time Lutanda married his wife Mary, and they had their first child.

Lutanda was such an intelligent, hard-working, and able assistant that he very soon became indispensable to the gallery. There is no doubt in my mind that Lutanda played a very important part in the success of Mpapa Gallery and therefore in the success of Zambian artists and Zambian art at the time. What thrilled me was that in the context of the gallery, and through Lutanda's contact with artists like Patrick Mweemba, Henry Tayali, Style Kunda, and many others he began to experiment with art himself and very quickly became one of the best printmakers we had.

His talent and ability meant that he was offered a place at Reading University to study printmaking and the very generous Lechwe Trust was able to fund his further studies there.

Circumstances forced me to leave Zambia in 1994 and regretfully I lost contact with many friends and artists. In 2012, thanks to Cynthia Zukas, I was able to meet Lutanda, his wife, Mary, and his children at the Henry Tayali Gallery. It was a very happy and pleasant encounter that did my heart so much good. I was very proud of Lutanda and cared very much for him. The news of his death is deeply tragic and my thoughts are with his wife, Mary, and with his family and friends. He is a great loss to Zambia and to Zambian art.

I shall always treasure the gift that Lutanda and his family gave me.