Ruth Thomas reflects on Mosaic series before donation to library
Close to 40 years worth of scripts documenting Bermuda’s colourful history, traditions, people and culture will be donated to the Bermuda College this month.
Author, educator and historian Ruth Thomas, is donating the entire catalogue of 90 dialogue scripts from her Mosaic series to the college and will be performing what is likely to be her very last reading at the official handing over on September 28.
The scripts are spoken by a group of people on stage reflecting the oral traditions of the past.
The public is invited to the event being hosted by The Friends of the College Library. It will take place at the library, which is open to student and public use.
Ms Thomas, 91, began creating her Mosaic productions in 1985 to educate the public about the traditions, folklore and history of Bermuda. She started out with seven performers, but in more recent years it was herself along with Gary Phillips, Grace Rawlins and Leo Mills.
Ms Thomas said: “The Mosaics are a record, not an official record, but a very detailed record of life in Bermuda as it was.
“I never would have thought something like this would happen — it is such an honour to have an opportunity to put them somewhere that has the potential to be useful to others and especially young people.
“Each Mosaic encapsulates bits and pieces of Bermuda’s cultural fabric — the mythology of our wonderful stories.
“This place is crammed with stories with our traditions and our rituals. All you need to do is go to Hamilton and you can still see the rituals in action — let one lady meet another lady and she will say ‘how are you, I haven’t seen you in a long time, how’s your mama, I heard your daddy was sick …’ This becomes a ritual in sharing information and use of language.
“It’s the worth of them. They encapsulate bits and pieces of all of us, all things Bermudian. The main interests are the people and history.”
Robert Masters, the president of The Friends of the College Library and former director of the college library, said the Mosaic catalogue was the perfect fit for the Brian Burland Research Centre, established at the library in 2013.
“This collection fell right into the genre of what we wanted to have here,” he said.
“We are hoping someone will use the material in the future if they are doing a research project and they want to find information about the local cultural aspect of the island.”
Ms Thomas will perform a reading of Traditions of Land, Sea and Air from the Mosaic series along with Ms Rawlins, Mr Mills and Mr Phillips.
She said: “It is not a new one. I did it way back in 2003. It was the theme that year of Heritage Month. I chose it because it is light and it relates to so many things we used to do, and probably still do, not realising they have been a part of life for a long time. Everybody can relate to it and we can laugh at ourselves.”
In 2011, the Mosaic book was published. It includes nine scripts from the popular theatrical series. The series uses skits and the spoken word to highlight Bermuda’s people and traditions.
Some were written for special occasions, such as a church’s anniversary, Black History Month or a celebration of Bermudian women.
Ms Thomas, who has a bachelor’s degree in English and drama and a master’s degree in educational counselling, studied educational broadcasting at Goldsmiths College and qualified as an early childhood specialist. Between 1967 and 1968, she helped to set up the first government preschools.
She was appointed the first education officer for preschools in 1972 and was serving in that post in 1984 when she was asked to work for the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs.
She eventually became Bermuda’s first cultural affairs officer.
In this position, Ms Thomas helped to implement television programmes such as The Learnalots and Treasures, about Bermuda senior citizens. She also edited a book Bermuda Recollections, a compilation of oral stories from Bermuda senior citizens.
She was a member of the Bermuda Arts Council for many years and helped to start the Lifetime Achievement Awards scheme recognising Bermudians in the arts.
She has received both the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Founder’s Award.
Where: Bermuda College Library
When: September 28
The Friends of the College Library will host the event. Ruth Thomas and friends will give a presentation of the Mosaic piece Traditions of Land, Sea and Air.
Ms Thomas added: “There are a lot that young people who don’t know about our past. If we are not careful, we will lose it all together.
“Bermuda is small but there’s so much we have to offer.
“Each Mosaic has bits and pieces of the traditions history, folklore, myths, rituals and even gossip … which we treat very carefully, and it all comes under the heading of culture. That’s is why it’s such a wonderful world. It’s an umbrella for everything we do — it’s a way of life.”