Arts & Culture(Archives)
YMM International - Caring, Sharing & Love - An interview with Ruddy Torley Tuneeko
This month the artists in residency will end with a big exhibition on the 27th of August at MacDonald Island Park. One of the four chosen participants is Ruddy Torley Tuneeko. Originally from Namibia but now a resident of Fort McMurray, YMM International talked with him about his journey to Canada, the power of art, and why it is important to keep your roots.
When did you come to Fort McMurray?
Ruddy: I came here last year and I got this job with CRNL last August. I do general labour there. I work two weeks on and two weeks off. This is great because I have enough time to do my artwork in my days off. I lived in Toronto and stayed there for two years and then I stayed in other places as well.
What did you do in your home country Namibia?
Ruddy: I went to art school and then I ran a program for street kids back home. I used art to get them off the streets and engaged them to be creative. We used reusable materials for creating all sorts of artwork. Children need support. Some of the children’s parents died of AIDS. So after my art classes I raised money to help these kids. We did paper mache, paintings. We had 16 children from the age of eight to 15 in this program.
How was the reaction of the kids when you introduced them to art?
Ruddy: They were very overwhelmed and happy. Some were crying and asked me: ‘You are giving us all that for free?’ They were very happy that they had something to do and could express their feelings in art.
Where does this urgent need to help these children come from?
Ruddy: I experienced loss myself at a very early stage of my life. My mother died when I was eight years old. My life became so empty and I know how it feels when you do not have anybody. Everybody needs love. Love is a gift from God and we all need to be loved. I am still in contact with them, they miss me. I am like a parent for them and they tell me what is going on their lives. I encourage parents to take care of their children.
Do the kids still do art although you are not there?
Ruddy: Some of them do, yes. Some of the parents do not pay a lot of attention to their children’s paintings. So I am often asked: ‘When are you coming back? We need our art classes!’ So when I go home for visits we do artwork together, we share stories and time together.
And how did you find out that art is your medium of expression?
Ruddy: I actually do not know. When I was at school I painted our teacher. He saw it and encouraged me to keep it up. The nature of my country, the beauty of it, inspired me to paint and draw. My family also supported me a lot and they encouraged me to go to art school.
How come animals play a huge role in your paintings? What are animals to you?
Ruddy: I love animals and their beauty. Every animal is unique and different. They are God’s creation. For instance there is this cow I painted and it was so special because this cow is not native to my country. It was so special to me. That cow was from India and I never saw a cow like this before. It was so beautiful and so different from what I knew. At that point I spent most of my life in the village and had not seen a lot of different things in the world and when that cow showed up I thought: ‘Wow! Look at that!’ That was my first year at art school.
One of my favourite paintings of yours is called ‘Caring, Sharing and Love’. It shows a coffee pot with a face. What is this painting about?
Ruddy: The face on the coffee pot is mine. I called it ‘Caring, Sharing and Love’ because nearly everybody loves coffee. It is a warm and comforting drink and often when we meet people we sit together over a cup of coffee.
Most of your work shows subjects from your home country Namibia. How is it for you doing your art in Fort McMurray?
Ruddy: It is very important for me not to forget where I am from. I think it is important for everyone to know their roots. If you do not know where you are from you do not know where you are going.
If you like Ruddy’s work and would like to purchase his art, you can go to his Facebook page ‘The Crazy Ruddys Arts’ (www.facebook.com/pages/The-Crazy-Ruddy-Arts/1562388270645089)
If you would like to see Ruddy’s work in person then do not miss the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s Artist in Residency final exhibition at the MacDonald Island Community Gallery presented Kirschner Family Corporation, August 27th, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.