Cha Jones, January 2015

There is nothing like having a little homemade hooch and speaking with a Caribbean legend. The fruitiness of what I would refer to back in the States as moonshine, was a gesture that I was at home and all was well. However, don't let the hooch fool you, she is about her business. Just as we begin she stops me, “Stop the recording.”  She puts her hand on my leg and proceeds to make sure she knows my intentions. I explain that I have a blog called the Nomadic Chick and I also have a nonprofit organization that works with women and girls to encourage international travel ( "Ok, that is wonderful, how wonderful, that is nice, I love that," she says as she taps me to turn the recorder back on. Once she is clear on my intentions, I'm able to proceed.

This creative spirit was born Ruby Angelica Bute of Aruba. Out of respect, I didn't dare ask the year and day the world accepted her. However, I know that by her work alone, the world indeed has accepted her. She is like royalty, no really!

In her own words she says, I have always seen beauty in everything. When asking her about her writings, she says she did not write until she arrived on the island of St. Martin in 1983. Although, she was born in Aruba she had never written poetry until moving to this island.  She says, “I started writing because I saw the beauty all around me. There was so much beauty on this island. In Aruba, the island was very dry and flat, so in moving to St. Martin I noticed the hills, the sea, and how the sea had various colors, and that was different from Aruba.” So, it is safe to say that St. Martin inspired her to write. 

Ruby's Paiting" Marigot Market" 
Although, she found a latent talent as a writer, Lady Bute has been painting since she was six years old. She remembers her father coming home with colors and paints when she was a child and she began painting, and never stopped. Painting has kept her as she moved through the many stages of her life. She says that art saved her from the stresses that sometimes women encounter being a mother or a wife. Her art assisted her as she dealt with the pain of being left as a single mother. “My art was my refuge and often helped me survive," she says with pride. 

Ruby's Painting "Dancing Couple"
Both of her parents were from St. Martin, and as a child her father told her not to stay in Aruba. Her father had always had land in St. Martin, and he always told her that she should go and live on the land, but she was not interested. However, when she got older she went to St. Martin to visit, and she fell in love with the beauty of the island. “My father was right with what he told me,” she says with a little laughter.

The fourth child of five and she says she was always the adventurous one. “I always wanted to know more than what was on the surface or what you can see of all my siblings. I was the one who went looking for things," she says smiling. When asked about adventures and when she began telling stories she informs me that her mother and her grandmother were both storytellers, and she has been telling stories since she could remember. “When I was a child we didn't have a TV and my mother would tell us stories all the time, so I got my storytelling from my mother,” she recalls.

 Ruby's Painting "Tanny and the Boys"
If you go to the Caribbean someone will know of Lady Ruby, but when asking her, she will tell you she was shy as a girl. “When I was growing up I was very shy, the shiest girl you could ever meet.  I never wanted to be out there, but my art took me out there. My paintings and my writing opened me to the world, but I didn’t go looking for it, it came to me.”  Her art opened her up to radio interviews, then television interviews, and she began receiving attention from the locals. However, the attention did not stay local for long, it eventual grew to other islands and maneuvered into the government accepting her as “their” artist, and now people come from all over the world to do interviews.

The government began sending her out on cultural exchanges to Holland to be with other artist and writers.  She no longer is the once shy little girl, “I am comfortable in this role, and it is more than I would ever think, but now I am comfortable into the heights I have taken.  I once would not dare speak on the radio or TV, but now it is a piece of cake.”

Her notoriety hasn't  stopped, it continues to grow. If you pick up any travel magazine in the Caribbean you will find something about Lady Ruby Bute. In her words, “I am in not in just one magazine, I am in many, just pick one up and they have something about me and my work.” She is in no way boasting, this humble Caribbean gem is really in several magazines, I can attest to reading at least four. That’s exactly how I stumbled upon this St. Martin diamond. I was glancing through a travel magazine on the airplane, and now, I can say I have met her, drank her homemade hooch, and had a conversation that will inspire me for the rest of my life. If  you ever want to meet this angelic creator you don't have to look too far, when you go to St. Martin just utter her name and the locals will point you in the right direction.

Silk Cotton Grove Art Gallery
La Batterie Rue Friar's Bay
F-97150 St. Martin, French West Indies, France

Me and Lady Ruby Bute

Cha Jones, January 2014

Destiny has its way of directing me where I need to be. On my recent trip to St. Maarten I came across a Destination magazine and began flipping through pages where I was introduced to one Ruby Bute. Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I knew I had to find her, and find her, I did.

My friends and I arrived in Friar’s Bay, St. Martin on the French side of the island where street signs directed us to the world renowned artist, poet and storyteller Lady Ruby Bute. When saying her name to the taxi driver Mr. Ash, he immediately begins speaking of her with such delight. You get the sense that she is a gem to know and Caribbean royalty.

Lady Ruby is welcoming. The moment we walk into the gallery I felt like I was a home. The gallery is filled with beautiful paintings full of color that dance with imaginary. She is finishing a class with some students from Semester at Sea who found her while exploring the island on their cultural excursion.  While offering her closing remarks she steps outside on the porch and all the students and faculty surround the steps as if they are going to be listening to a dignitary. With the joy of a child she begins to spout wisdom and express her gratitude for them having class with her on this beautiful sunny day. I later find out that the class wasn't at all scheduled, but you get the sense that Lady Ruby is a free spirit and goes with the flow. As they prepare to depart, she gives them some final words and then teaching them a few words in her native Aruba dialect.

She is an Aruba born creative artist and humble as pie. At first glance she reminds me of what we African American’s call our grandmothers, Big Momma, which in many cases, are larger than life wise women who pillow you with love and guide you with ancient wisdom.  Her Caribbean accent is thick but sings with a soulfulness that makes me feel like I too should be from an island.  You can tell that age and wisdom sit with her, but when speaking with this wise elder I know that she still has the youthfulness of a child that wakes her with excitement. She is in love with life and I feel it as her words greet me.

This is an impromptu visit prompted by a magazine find that I couldn't be denied, and within a few moments I’m asking permission to interview her for my blog. Without hesitation she agrees and it is like sitting with an old friend catching up on old times.

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