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Art for recovery’s sake

Wairarapa burns victim Zelda Bruce and her niece Zandaley Bothma are organising an art event to raise money for Life Flight. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

Artist’s event to support Life Flight
It has been 10 years since Featherston artist Zelda Bruce was seriously burned in a petrol explosion. Now, she is preparing to celebrate her recovery, writes EMILY IRELAND.

In a field of roses, Zelda Bruce is a wildflower.

It was November 2008 when the explosion happened.

Zelda was renovating some old stables for her art studio, in Tauherenikau, taking hay out of the walls and doing some water blasting.

She had filled a big metal drum with the hay to burn it, to prevent the breeding of horseflies.

But after returning to the drum some time later, it appeared the fire had gone out, so she fuelled it with petrol, causing an explosion.

The clothes she was wearing were synthetic, and so she could not put the flames out.

“I had to roll. I was screaming but no one heard me. I knew I just had to get into the shower.”

As Zelda ran to the shower, a man who had been helping with the renovation called 111.

“The shower was the most excruciating pain, but I knew I had to be in the water.”

The fire brigade and ambulance arrived, and Zelda was taken to the Tauherenikau Racecourse where Life Flight helicopter had landed to transport her to Hutt Hospital.

“My face, my ears, everything was burnt.

“They said I must have eye damage, but I didn’t.

“For an artist, if I had to lose my eyes…” – Zelda hated to think what could have happened.

“Then it was a seven-year process of cut and paste,” she said, referring to skin graft procedures and healing.

Zelda, who describes herself as “mosaic-mad” likens her recovery to the making of a mosaic – “I think it was part of putting myself back together again,” she said.

Zelda said her plastic surgeon Jim Armstrong taught her “the most valuable lesson in life”.

“He said, beauty is inside.

“It took me a long time to work out what that means.

“Beauty lives inside – once you have love in your heart and you can forgive and let all regrets go, then, everything you see around you is beautiful.

“Bad things happen to all of us – but if you focus on the positive, it will give you energy to overcome the negative.”

One of the positive things, Zelda has been focusing on is her upcoming art fundraiser event titled Wild Flower, which she has been organising with her niece Zandaley Bothma.

“One thing I find special about my aunt is that she is probably the only person in the world that I know who has these outrageous ideas and acts on them and makes them happen,” Zandaley said.

“We’re making this happen together.”

The event will be held on January 26 from 2pm at YEBO Art Studio and the Tin Hut, and will feature art workshops, live music, and tributes to Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and other artists.

From 2pm until 7.30pm, art workshops and live music will be held at the studio, and from 8pm onwards the entertainment will move to The Tin Hut.

Entry is by koha and proceeds will go to Life Flight.

Wairarapa artist Mark Dimock will also exhibit sculpture art in the Tin Hut garden, and other artists will exhibit their work at the Tin Hut, running until February 9.

For updated information, check out the YEBO Art Studio Facebook page.

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