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 (www.exptwomenofcolor.com). “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.
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.
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.
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.