Next in the Meet Series

by - 16:05

The 'Meet' Series is my chance to interview anyone I would love to meet that is involved in African literature. 

As someone who hasn't hidden the fact that I love the art associated with books, as much as I do the words in them, I am really happy to announce that next in the series is Xanelé Puren, winner of the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators

From South Africa, with a love for illustration awakened through the countless number of children's books her mother exposed her too, Xanelé won the Prize with two illustrations: Two lost boys in a big city market and Jama is late to borrow a book from the library
Two lost boys in a big city market. Image via Golden Baobab
American illustrator and writer, Paul Zelinksky - one of the 2014 judges "found the characters in Xanelé’s illustrations to be very attractive and appealing in part because it takes some examining to see them as even human, but once you do see them that way, they are quite amusing. Her illustration are decorative, artistic and charming and I do think she has given us some very lovely work.!"

While early childhood educator, Akua Peprah, finds Xanelé's illustrations are " ... vibrant, textured and playful. There is so much detail in every character and the backgrounds. The illustrations evoke such strong feelings and makes me want to read the books where those pages came from.!"

I love, love, love that one of the judges was 8-year old Ghanaian book lover, Kofi Anyimadu who "really liked discovering the unexpected characters in Xanele’s Illustrations! I liked the men playing cards and the carpet in the middle. The carrots for a nose was also funny!"

Golden Baobab is really changing the work of children's literature on the continent and last year, it launched the Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators Prize to 'recognise and celebrate talented African illustrators for children stories.' 

Said to be the biggest and most prestigious prize committed to discovering, nurturing and celebrating talented African illustrators of children’s stories, executive Director, Deborah Ahenkorah, explains the reason behind the launch being that:
"Children deserve to have imaginative and captivating illustrations accompany enthralling stories they read. They deserve to not only see themselves represented in those stories but also in the images they consume."
I couldn't agree more, and in fact I am reminded by a piece I read the other day by Mabel Segun on the importance of illustration in children's literature. In it Segun writes that: "pictorial language is literature in its own right ... [with] art helping a young child to discover [their] own identity and cultural heritage."

The inaugural prize shortlisted 12 finalists, ten of which were recently featured on Okayafrica on 10 African Children's Illustrators to Know. 

If you haven't seen the artists work, you should definitely check them out, and then join me next week for the first Meet Series of the year with Xanelé Puren - who is not just a talented artist, but is transforming the lives of young South Africans through her social enterprise. How cool is that? Xanelé will be sharing her journey to becoming an artist, what she loves about being an illustrator, her social enterprise, and her favourite children's book growing up. 

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