the story behind my stories


who is Tanvir Bush?

Dr. Tanvir Bush, wearing a scarlet dress with black detail, and a silver pendant in the shape of a shell, is smiling up at the camera as she crouches with her arm around her guide dog, black labrador Grace, who helps navigate her life despite her retinitis pigmentosa. Grace is looking straight at the camera.  Portrait by Penny Ellis

I am a novelist and film-maker/photographer.

Born in London, I moved with my family to Zambia in the early ‘70’s. Although educated back in England from the age of ten, I returned to Zambia whenever I could, fully intending to move there permanently.

After completing a first degree in English, Theatre and Film, I received the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa (R.P.), a degenerative eye condition. This would eventually cause me to rethink my future. But the possibility of losing my sight did not deter me from training in film production at the Northern School of Film and TV, Leeds.

I returned to Lusaka in 1999 and set up Ambush Productions, later renamed the Willie Mwale Film Foundation, working with minority communities, street-kids and people affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Our feature documentary ‘Choka!- Get Lost!’ was nominated for Most Distinguished Film and the Pare Lorenz Award for social activism in film by the International Documentary Association in 2001.


In 2005, I returned to the UK to study, write and explore photography.

I completed my MA in 2010 and my PhD in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in 2016.

My first novel Witch Girl was published by Modjaji Books, Cape Town in 2015 and my second, Cull, via Unbound in January 2019.

Tanvir Bush and a friend wear blue-and-white graduation gowns and hats as they sit outside in the sunshine with Grace, the guide dog who helps Tanvir to navigate life successfully despite her retinitis pigmentosa. All three of them are smiling!

community, creative writing and beyond

Tanvir Bush and a friend wear blue-and-white graduation gowns and hats as they sit outside in the sunshine with Grace, the guide dog who helps Tanvir to navigate life successfully despite her retinitis pigmentosa. All three of them are smiling!

I want not only to contribute to the discussion on disability, access and the arts but to bring it to our local community in Corsham. To that end, I became a local Corsham Town Councillor in 2021.

Previously (2014), I brought Bath Spa University and the wonderful Pound Arts Centre together to develop SenseAbility.

Initially, SenseAbility was a festival exploring the relationship between disability and the arts in the twenty-first century. Latterly, it has become a strand of the Pound Arts programme and a continuing community dialogue.

Events include presentations about the arts and access, discussions e.g. with Fay Weldon and neuropsychologist Alison Lee, talks e.g. by Peter White MBE, and film screenings and discussions e.g. with Ken Loach, plus writing workshops, exhibitions, performances, and more. All free and open to the Corsham and wider community.


Choka! – Get Lost!


This is an original documentary shot in 2000, about a gang of street children in Lusaka, Zambia, most of them HIV/AIDS orphans. With unparalleled access and great sensitivity, the film follows the children through a typical day, as they play, scavenge, beg, survive and dream of a better future.

Shot over five months with the collaboration of the street-children and communities of Lusaka, Zambia, this film was selected by the International Documentary Association (L.A.) for Most Distinguished Film and The Pare Lorenz Award for Social Activism in Film in 2001.

Directed by Kasper Bisgaard
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Sound Design: Jeppe Jungersen
Assistant Director: Masauso Mtonga

Produced by Tanvir Naomi Bush
Copyright Ambush Productions Ltd. 2001
All rights reserved

Chatter: A Short Film by Jane Devoy

This drama produced in 2022 is based on stories by Tanvir Bush, Vivenne Coxhead & Riley Yeomans.

During the peacefulness and sunshine at the start of the pandemic in the UK, a young girl hears creatures talking in the countryside near her home. She uses this discovery to entice her older sister out of a depression.

The film uniquely integrates audio description into the main soundtrack.

For more info, see Jane Devoy: Chatter



My first novel Witch Girl was published under the name Tanvi Bush by Modjaji Books, Cape Town in 2015. I published my second novel Cull as Tanvir Bush via Unbound in January 2019. Although Witch Girl and Cull have completely different settings and ethos, reflecting the two very different countries that have nurtured me, there are some clear linking themes. Strong female protagonists, for instance. Also, societal blind spots, the effects of discrimination, prejudice and stigma, resistance, resilience, commitment, loyalty and friendship against all odds. I also tried, for both stories, to be as meticulous with my research as possible.

Witch Girl

My undergraduate thesis on Zambian traditional dance included chapters on trance dancing and shamanistic ritual which also led me to discussion, written texts and witness statements about some elements of traditional healing and 'witchcraft'. On a documentary film shoot in Southern Province, 1991, I met, quite by accident, the famous witch doctor and witch finder Dr. Sansakowa and his terrifying entourage. Later, I sourced reportage and witness accounts from journalists, doctors, traditional healers, street children, church groups and others on various claims of HIV/AIDS cures, such as sleeping with virgins, blood transfusions, and cannibalism. This exposure, alongside my own experience of the devastating effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zambia on friends, family, communities and all sectors of life, formed the impetus to write Witch Girl! For more background, see Colorado State University’s Center for Literary Publishing's Tanvir Bush Interview.


For Cull, a dark satire on the potential state-sponsored euthanasia of disabled and vulnerable people, my research was deeply personal, based in part on my own experience as a disabled “client” of the UK’s social welfare system. I supported this as much as possible with facts, figures, and wider reading on the language of dehumanisation and the escalation of prejudice with regard to the social empowerment or otherwise of the disabled and poor in contemporary England. Although this novel was written before the Covid Pandemic of 2019, it was frighteningly prescient and resonates profoundly with both disabled and non-disabled readers today. For the creative rationale behind Cull's protagonist, and a list of references, see my research paper on The Writing Platform: Blinding My Hero.

Dressed in a black jumper and black trousers, a grinning Tanvir Bush is seen mid-air, head thrown back, arms flung out, right arm stretched above her head, left arm stretched out to the side, with her knees bent and feet kicked up behind her. In the background is the brown-tiled roof of a house with the tops of two green trees. The head of a laughing woman enjoying the spectacle is visible in front of the house.


Head and shoulders shot of a bespectacled man in a dark jacket and a blue shirt with his head entirely covered in bubble wrap, except for his lips, which are visible through a hole in the wrap. Against a cloudy sky, he bends his head slightly forward. This image captures the claustrophobia, menace, and daftness of visual impairment experienced by Tanvir Bush as her retinitis pigmentosa advances.On a bright sunny day, a young black boy in a black tracksuit top and brown trowsers with rolled cuffs and sturdy flipflops is bouncing a football improvised from blue and green plastic bags and string. He is playing on a bare sandy pitch against a backdrop of blue African sky with a few white clouds and a green hedge.

Although I had produced and directed short films and documentaries, it wasn’t until I accepted my retinitis pigmentosa and registered as severely sight-impaired in 2007 that I began developing a photographic voice. Initially, I explored conveying ‘how’ I saw, and how losing sight made me feel. I experimented with photographing through tin foil, bubble wrap, netting and water.

Later, I joined forces with Mexican NGO Ojos que Sienten A.C / Sight of Emotion and UK-based international charity PhotoVoice. I took part in two of their joint projects, 'Beyond Sight' and 'Sights Unseen'. Gaining confidence as a sensory photographer, I began to facilitate workshops with visually impaired people and sighted enthusiasts.

In 2009, I won a bursary from Photovoice and shot the MacGyver Series in Zambia. Angus MacGyver, a resourceful secret agent, was the hero of a US TV series from the 80's. He found his way out of scrapes through ingenious use of things found, like scrap metal and string, bubble-gum and wood etc. In Zambia, the word ‘MacGyver’ has entered the lexicon. It means ‘resourcefully pulled together’, as in ‘that guy’s car windscreen was cracked, but he macGyvered it with duct tape’, or ‘the wheel came off my bike, but I macGyvered it with a rubber strap and a sweet wrapper.’ To honour the remarkable ‘make do’ attitude in Zambia, my series, MacGyver, revolved around recycled objects like kites made from plastic bags, footballs from condoms, gym kits from scrap metal, etc.

For the last few years, my photography has taken a back seat to my writing, but is still an essential part of the way I communicate and express myself.

To find out more about sensory photography and how to run your own workshop, please visit Photovoice Sensory Photography .

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My post-doctoral research interests are informed by my own experience of developing and growing as a creative writer and, through the creative process, as a person.

I want to develop my understanding of the impact of creative writing on well-being and resilience and of the role of empathy in mitigating prejudice.

I pursue these interests as designer and facilitator of the Corsham Creative Writing Laboratory and via other research projects and involvements.

research projects
Tanvir stands in front of a large window reading from a page that he holds in front of her. Two of the attendees are visible in the background. From their position it seems likely that others are standing in a circle to front of her.