Picture books from Africa

Four prominent picture book artists from Africa met today in a seminar at the Gothenburg Book Fair. The seminar was moderated by jury member Lennart Eng, who gave the audience an introduction into the art of Piet Grobler, Véronique Tadjo, Christian Epanya and John Kilaka.

Piet Grobler grew up on a farm in South Africa, studied theology and worked as a priest until 1989 when he switched to journalism and graphic design. Since he began illustrating he has published several books, among them Today is my day, Colors! and Makwelane and the crocodile, with text by Maria Hendrichs. Makwelane was recently published in Swedish by Hjulet and Piet Grobler received the 2010 Peter Pan Award for this book by the Swedish section of IBBY.

Véronique Tadjo has been nominated to the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award many times. She comes from the Ivory Coast but lives and works in France. As Véronique had written her first picture book text, her intention was that her mother, an established artist, would illustrate it. But her mother never got around doing it. That’s how she began illustrating herself, something her fans are grateful for! Since then, many books, such as Mamy Wata and the monster, Grandma Nana, The lucky grain of corn and Talking Drums, have seen the light of day. In recent years Véronique Tadjo has mainly been painting, but during the seminar she revealed that she is currently looking for a way to get these paintings onto the page.

Christian Epanya from Cameroon lives and works in Lyon, France. He started by illustrating other author’s text, but in recent years he’s been focusing on making books on his own. His book Le Taxi-Brousse de Papa Diop, was published in Sweden by Trasten and became an immediate success. His other books include Le Petit photographe de Bamba and the recent Le voyage de L’Empereur Kankou Moussa. In Christian Epanya’s books, each image is a world in itself, in which the reader can navigate.

John Kilaka’s career as an illustrator started on the blackboard in school, where he would illustrate jokes for his classmates to enjoy. Much to the distraught of his teachers … His first book Fresh Fish came out in 2001 and became an international success. His passion for oral storytelling has led him to begin traveling Tanzania, collecting and illustrating traditional stories. He sees this as a way of saving this heritage for future generations. His latest book The Amazing Tree is representative of this project.

The seminar was organized by Afrika barn 2010, Svenska Tecknare and the network Den hemliga trädgården. Den hemliga trädgården (The secret garden) was founded in 2003 with the purpose to introduce children’s literature from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East to the Swedish audience. In time for the book fair, a highly recommendable introduction to African children’s literature written by Sven Hallonsten and Britt Isakson was published by the network. If you read Swedish and are even just remotely interested in literature from Africa, this is a must. It can be easily ordered by e-mailing vbib@solidaritetshuset.se.

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