Tall enough? : an illustrator’s visual inquiry into the production and consumption of isiXhosa picture books in South Africa
Thesis (Mphil (Visual Arts. Illustration))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
This thesis is a visual, sociolinguistic and cultural inquiry into the role of isiXhosa picture books in contemporary South Africa. From the standpoint of an illustrator, I examine several of these works arising out of a history that alienated many isiXhosa readers and writers from their language. I examine factors that influence the design, content and very notions of reading itself through the multiple languages offered by the picture book format. I argue that these books occupy a problematic space where production and consumption are affixed to paradigms of economics, language and literacy incongruent with the lives of many isiXhosa-speaking readers. My overall conclusion is that literacy and visual literacy are essential to developing an authentic 'reading culture'. Fostering a meaningful relationship with printed words and images is critical to both the emerging reader and the emerging illustrator. In producing illustrations for an isiXhosa narrative, I consider the shape of my own visual literacy through mediations with drawing and writing, relating my activities to those of a child learning to distinguish between pictures and words. The cross-over space where image/text distinctions blur potentially invites new narrative expressions. The picture book is a suitable format for expanding notions of vision and literacy, 'subverting' paradigms and revealing the richness of contemporary African tales. I rest my fundamental premise on an insistence for an increase of accessible, quality picture books in African languages that stimulate the artistic and intellectual development of all readers.