Be a voter!

african, design, From the sketchbooks, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, Zimbabwe

I was asked to illustrate a poster designed by Chaz Maviyane-Davies to get people to vote. The first time we worked together on a similar message was back in Zimbabwe when I was knee-high to grasshopper! I made an illustration for a magazine called Moto (meaning ‘Fire’ in Shona) which published a lot of sociopolitical stuff.

So I did the cover, thought nothing about it, and off it went to print. A couple of awards later and I knew a couple, of things; firstly, I was quite good at interpreting ideas, and secondly, I didn’t want to be down for doing heavy sociopolitical work alone. I wasn’t even 20 years old!

Anyway, that’s when I first had the bright idea to travel and seek my fame and fortune, but that is another story…

Fast forward to 2018 and the real need for people to take their social and political responsibilities seriously. This is how it took shape, from rough (very rough) sketches to finished art:

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And here’s the finished piece. Wherever you are , #be a voter!

1Stand_Up

 

 

What it is, what it was, what it will be.

Activities & Play, african, design, idea, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing

Academically speaking, an oral history is not intended to present a final, verified, or “objective” narrative of events, or a comprehensive history of a place, because it is a primary source of information. Its a spoken account, reflects personal opinion offered by the narrator, and as such it is subjective.

IMG_0987

Oral histories are often used together with other sources to gain understanding and insight into history.

Non academically speaking, you get a better feel for an event if it is told to you. It can compensate for dry factual accounts or statistical information. Oral testimony becomes oral history from one generation to the next It is the memory of the past spoken to the next generation.

Professor Phillip Bonner, head of the History Workshop Research Group at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS University) in South Africa and National Research Foundation Chair for “Local Histories, Present Realities” has conducted research in South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique.

“…Many societies in Africa have traditionally been shaped by oral rather than written communication; the literacy rate is often low. Colonialism, Apartheid and other forms of oppression reinforced this tendency throughout the continent, resulting in a lack of written documentation about the past. Historians thus had to find other ways of gathering historical information, and oral history methods have proven to be a very useful tool in their research efforts.”

Oral history predates written history in Africa (some of the most ancient historical texts are drawn from oral testimony). But it was only used in African historical research from the 1960s. Prior to that, there were huge gaps in African history books.

brain-2Sure, human memory is unreliable in certain contexts. So the method was initially greeted with a great deal of scepticism. But for African cultures, the word was the history, so they had ways of remembering the important points, something which western scholars seem to have ignored.

Nowadays, people like Professor Bonner hold “live history interviews,” where people are encouraged to speak about their lives from the time they remember being a person. The idea sounds deliciously inviting. In the professor’s experience, asking open questions that don’t presume a specific answer and listening to the interviewee more than asking questions yields the most useful, and sometimes even surprising information.

microphone37But live history interviews take time and aren’t cheap, especially transcription and translation of interviews. But they are reliable when added to a pool of collective memory and with a few quality control methods applied. A common truth can be found.

It is all part of one rich historical narrative, told from different perspectives.

I grew up hearing stories from elders, something which sticks with me more than the history books I have read. But I know that using both methods is probably the best way to understand and get an accurate picture of a story, a history. It is another way to feel the lasting effect of an event from long ago.

In my studio I have been developing a way to tell stories through reading out loud. Its very exciting to have finally succeeded in producing a book that instructs the reader how to tell the story within. And it was deceptively straightforward. I am hoping it will be the backbone of major new series in 2019.

I love books, but I love stories even more.

Check to the Goethe Insitute article on Oral history

 

From idea to book: how a book is made

african, character, children's books, design, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, publishing, stories

Everyone has a story inside them. Some of us tell it in a book or a play or on the stage, football pitch or boardroom. But most of us live our story, telling it to our loved ones, every day, year by year… the point is each story gets told and appreciated.

I have heard many wonderful stories and have learned to use the book as my medium. Let me share that way with you in a series of real-time posts, starting with an idea and ending (hopefully) with a beautiful book.

If you have thought of writing or illustrating your own book, or if you are just curious, then this real-time project will be of use before you get in touch.

All you have to do is follow the blog for regular monthly updates on the project. Please comment, spread the word and get involved!

Coming up in the first post; where ideas come from.

Remember to sign up for automatic updates

Chicken Newspaper, The Food Edition

african, children's books, design, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max, kids, publishing

Chicken Food Edition copy

It’s taken a while to learn how to build a digital publication, longer than I thought, but it’s finally done. It will be available throughout January on the iBookstore, Amazon and on Issuu.

If you don’t know, Chicken Newspaper is a unique way to bring current affairs into the primary school classroom because it’s written and designed especially for them.

It is available in print and now digital three times a year.

I started the project because there are many stories that are good, but not books. They are more about how life is, or about what is happening elsewhere right now. These are the kind of stories that parents might discuss with children on the way to school, or that children might overhear, or they might be news stories that need further explaining.

Chicken Newspaper has become a great way to discuss the world. Take a look at a previous issue

We’ve managed to see pit free for schools for the last four years, but the realities of publishing means that is about to change. Still, subscription isn’t expensive (from £7.95 a year, which is roughly $10.00). ITs been an exciting and fulfilling project so far!

Word on the Street

african, design, illustration, North London

WATTAGWAAN

Whatagwaan?

This phrase is essential of you are travelling to or living in a West Indian neighbourhood .(that’s ‘neighorhood’ to all the Americans in the house). It means, ‘What’s going on?’ in the Marvin Gaye sense.

It has a few versions, namely Wa’ Gwaan, ‘Wa’pn’, and can be used in many situations. like the one illustrated below;

At the African Carribean market when buying your weekly supply of yams,

Shopkeep: Wha’ gwaan. You wan a yam?

You: Na, me no wan a wole yam.

Shopkeep: Ar-right