CREATIVE SPACE #10 of 2021 (uploaded May 12th 2021)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It continues to expand across other media platforms (e.g. AntiguanWriter on YouTube). CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on May 12th 2021 in the Daily Observer:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE and/or CREATIVE SPACE on YouTube, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
(Disclaimers: panels in this post have been mostly supplied, by request, by Harper Collins, publishers of the Big Cat series; I am an author in the Big Cat series. That said, any linked reviews of books in this series, reviews written by me, are my unbought opinion.)
CREATIVE SPACE: The Art of Illustration
For World Book Day, April 23rd, I did a YouTube live with Trinbagonian artist Danielle Boodoo-Fortune who has illustrated two of my children’s picture books, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and The Jungle Outside.
“It has not felt like chance that we have gotten to work together twice, the outcome has been beautiful, and I hope we get together again too,” she said at the end of our live: Caribbean Creatives Collab – How We did it! (World Book Day Chat) on my AntiguanWriter channel.
Since that live I’ve been reading my way through other books in the series – a series of #ownvoices Caribbean titles within Harper Collins (UK) Big Cat series of children’s books of which The Jungle Outside is one of two titles by Antiguans and Barbudans. The other is Turtle Beach, which is both written and illustrated by local talents – Barbara A. Arrindell and Zavian Archibald, respectively.
Reviewing Turtle Beach earlier this year, I used words like charming, Black Caribbean specificity, and magical quality to describe Zavian’s illustrations.
There is something special about seeing all this colour inserting itself in to the world of international picture book publishing. I mean that both in terms of what’s on the page and in terms of what it means for diversity. Children’s book publishing’s lack of diversity is well documented going back, at least, to Nancy Larrick’s conversation-starting 1965 article on ‘The All-White World of Children’s Books’. As recently, as 2017, Summer Edward, founder of online Caribbean children’s literary journal Anansesem and a writer and editor in her own right, noted that “yet another article taking the ‘all-white world of children’s books’ to task felt redundant and discouragingly pointless.” Meaning that the problem persists, with the added dimension that for us in the Caribbean, “too often, others are telling our stories at the expense of authenticity and ‘own voices,’ leading to the perpetuation of a North American/European outsider view of our cultures.” (Summer in hbook.com)
As a hashtag, #ownvoices refers to stories for us by us. And Summer’s The Wonder of the World Leaf is one. Both Summer and her assigned illustrator Sayada Ramdial are of Trinidad and Tobago, and it shows in the storytelling and the art work. The characters are coded Black and Caribbean – peep the print on the mother and daughter’s clothing, the locs on the father’s head, the cowry shells in the mother’s hair, the home remedies (the bush tea for drinking or wrapping under a headtie with melted candle wax), the popping melanin all over the pages. Indians and Muslims are among the sub-groups that pop in to the story, as natural as natural can be, without exotification; the plants are recognizably Caribbean, as is the scene of people liming on the verandah in this quintessentially Caribbean book.
The illustrator of Guyanese based in Antigua and Barbuda Desryn Collins’ book How to become a Calypsonian is Ricky Sanchez Ayala, a US based Dominican (Sp.)
while Grenadian Stacey Byer illustrated Guyanese award winning teen/young adult author Imam Baksh’s first picture book The Lost Sketchbook . There is much to love in the visuals of both. There is a good sense of fun in the Calypsonian images – which leans in to the playful aspect of calypso, but I am particularly fond of The Lost Sketchbook as a concept (a girl finds a sketch book where the thing you draw comes to life), in its very meta way of exploring the visual art. My favourite image though is the main character at the pitch with a cricket bat in her hand facing down a ball.
Girls in cricket aren’t as rare as they once were but it’s still cool and empowering to see the girl with a cricket bat in her hand. There are layers of storytelling in every pixel of that image and drawing that particular image is a choice. Among the words we writers write, artists are challenged to find the most illustrative image and the best ones get there.
In discussing her work on Jungle, Danielle spoke about understanding that the art must serve the text; and resisting the urge to make everything “post card idyllic”, leaving out “the rough bits and the wild bits.” We spoke as well, as women of colour, of the importance of children seeing reflections of themselves – and especially so dark-skinned children who rarely do. “Tanti is so much more of a person,” Danielle said of one such character we went back and forth on in our effort to get her right.
And that’s the thing with #ownvoices, the effort put in to getting it right, so that the art we render and the stories we tell are a true reflection of the lives we live.
Turtle Beach and The Jungle Outside were previously discussed in the Book Chat series on my YouTube Channel which formed the basis for CREATIVE SPACE #OurBooks #OurVoices #OurBestsellers from February 3rd 2021;
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