Artist, Activist, Author: Storyteller
I write and paint because I am a storyteller. I have always made stories, though at times IÃ¢â¬â¢ve been lost for direction, identity and method. I paint to explore and share ideas and feelings.
I spent my childhood and school-days in Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, I studied at Cape TownÃ¢â¬â¢s Michaelis School of Art and learnt politics in Natal.
In the sixties I escaped South Africa with my first child to seek asylum in liberating London.
In the seventies, I became a mother, wife and feminist in England.
From the mid-seventies to the early nineties, I was an expatriate economic migrant, working in Zambia as a teacher and art gallery director. It was a challenging time of political upheaval and change.
Later in the nineties after a difficult marriage and painful divorce, I returned to work and study in East Anglia.
In 2002 I met my new partner John and we have travelled widely together, eventually spending a year exploring 27 European countries in a motorhome.
In 2009 John and I settled in a rural village in South-West France and we began the process of turning a small cottage and its paddock into a home with a fruitful garden.
In my art and my writing, I can draw on my own stories and those of the fascinating and extraordinary people IÃ¢â¬â¢ve met. My stories explore connections, conflict, creativity and communication.
Ã¢â¬ÅTHE TIN HEART GOLD MINEÃ¢â¬Â
The Tin Heart Gold Mine is the story of Lara, a young and gifted wildlife artist. She lives and works in Chambeshi, a fictional African country whose increasing destabilisation by the Cold War results in riots and a coup attempt. Success has come early for Lara but she is not satisfied. She wants to understand the true measure of artistic worth.
At an exhibition of her work she meets two very different men who have an enormous influence on her. Tim, an investigative journalist, becomes her friend. Oscar offers to make her rich by promoting her art. Lara likes Tim but is attracted to Oscar, who owns the small and unproductive Tin Heart gold mine yet is surprisingly wealthy and powerful. She wants love but how easy is it to tell the difference between love and sex in a new relationship? Does her thirst for success make her susceptible to Oscar even if his past and the source of his money are shrouded in mystery?
The story begins in London several years after Lara has left Chambeshi. Tim is leaving Lara and her son Adam to return to Africa. He is furious because Lara has received a legacy from Oscar, now apparently dead. As the past unburies itself Lara collapses into depression. Will she be able to survive all the betrayals of her past?
WHY I WROTE Ã¢â¬ÅTHE TIN HEART GOLD MINEÃ¢â¬Â
My life in Zambia gave me great respect for its people and a love for its wilderness, its wild animals and its natural beauty. I feel however that there is a real lack of stories set in the period that I lived there. It was a time full of confusion and conflict and as the colonial era came to an end it struggled with the fallout from the Cold War and problems of lack of development. That provided me with the political and historical background. I had also met many interesting and varied people who were passionate about Africa. Some of them may not have been good or altruistic but they were always surprising and often courageous. All these things inspired me to write The Tin Heart Gold Mine.
The Ã¢â¬ÅTin Heart Gold MineÃ¢â¬Â had almost as long a gestation period as my first published book Ã¢â¬ÅThe Shaping of WaterÃ¢â¬Â.
The idea for it came to me while visiting a safari camp near a defunct copper mine some 26 years ago. It was an extraordinary site Ã¢â¬â an ugly gash in the bush hundreds of kilometres from anywhere. It recalled all those tales of old explorers and gold-hunters who made punishing and dangerous journeys into the wilderness in the forlorn hope of becoming wealthy and ended up trapped by their dreams. My own father and his younger brother had searched for gold on the rough hillside above their farm when they were only teenagers. They got their African farm labourers to dig pits in the rocky ground of the kopje. Each pit was as long and deep as a grave and, as they were never filled in, they became deadly traps for unwary animals and walkers in the bush. As a child I understood the fascination and the unfulfilled promises of gold. I remember the bellows of cattle dying from accidental cyanide poisoning from the mine dump at a tiny mine close to our farmstead. My father had worked on the isolated Phoenix goldmine during the 1930s depression; moreover I had an alcoholic aunt with a blasting licence for a gold mine. I understood the greed that grows out of desperation and deprivation.
I wanted to write a new version of Kurtz, the exploitative colonial villain in Joseph Conrad's Ã¢â¬ÅHeart of DarknessÃ¢â¬Â but I also wanted a female protagonist who was driven into danger by her passion for art and sex. Moreover I wanted to write of the beauty, the fragility and the strength of the African wilderness. I had grown tired of the racist scenario which white Europeans used to attribute the failures and political instability in developing countries to Africa and Africans alone. European wars and imperial ambitions had impacted on the continent for 100s of years, as Joseph Conrad's book shows. Readers too often imagine that the dark heart is African while in fact it is the heart of Mr. Kurtz that is black. Independence did not put an end to neo-colonial interference in Africa. That was one input into this story. Colonialism leads to wars but the people displaced after European wars first became economic migrants and then neo-colonialists. Neither always from choice.