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!




What Matters… Libraries

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

What is happening to libraries in the UK is shocking. I read this quote in the Guardian recently, from Margaret Hodge, the Culture Minister;  “I do care passionately about libraries,” she says, “but they have to change. The footfall is down and book issues are massively down. Only 14 of 151 local authorities have libraries that offer e-books.” She said that in March, 2010.
In February,2011, 375 public libraries across the UK face closure, with dropping numbers in visits and tightening council budgets to blame.
To me the library is not only about books but about information housed in a central place freely available to all. It’s not about footfall either. It is a symbol of knowledge and hope.
As a child in Africa and I heard more stories than I read. Books were not in the front of my mind until I reached my late teens and libraries less so. Ironically, I now make my living by writing and illustrating books. I couldn’t say I saw that coming!
I’ve visited a fair number of libraries all over the United Kingdom and the United States, each with their own personality, each with dedicated and knowledgeable staff and most importantly strong and involved communities. Librarians have innovated and turned their libraries into community hubs where more than books are on offer.
My young daughter reads more than I ever did at her age and part of that is down to the local library. She reads to me at night, and just before I nod off I feel as though I am re-living a slightly different version of my own childhood. Putting that aside, books have made my daughter more imaginative, more chatty, more witty and more curious.
Meanwhile, ancient books and manuscripts are being digitized in far away places such Timbuktu, Mali. Up to 150,000 manuscripts, some of which date from the 13th century and document subjects ranging from science and the arts to social and business trends of the day are available to view on-screen in a high-tech facility. The same is happening in museums all over the world.
At a time when the battle between the digital and monologue worlds is raging the loss of a number of libraries seems to show that victory belongs to the digital world. There is a clear line between those who want to keep the printed word on paper and those who strongly believe the future of the printed word is on-screen.
I have come to see the printed and displayed word as completely separate products carrying the same content.
The modern library might turn out to be a place where books are part of the solution and the librarian is still the user or visitor’s guide. The key to the library’s survival, therefore is the librarian and the accessibility of the information.
Further information;

Octavo ( use ‘the best in advanced technology to uncover and enhance the seminal ideas of the past in ways that will offer inspiration for the present and future.’
The Domino Project (, the brainchild of American marketing expert Seth Godin seeks to reinvent “what it means to be a publisher, and along the way, spreading ideas that we’re proud to spread.”

A Brave Woman

design, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max

”She was the only person to accept the position,” said the mayor’s office in Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero. The daily threat of violence in the town has claimed the lives of police officers and a former mayor.

”I took the risk because I want my son to live in a different community to the one we have today. I want people to be able to go out without fear, as it was before,” Marisol Valles said.

More than 2500 people have been killed this year in the Juarez valley region where the town is situated. The area is a high-traffic transit point for illegal drugs.

Ms Valles said her job would not be to fight drug trafficking because that responsibility fell on soldiers and federal police. Instead, she will focus on improving general security by rehabilitating public spaces and improving relationships between neighbours.

‘I’ve been well received and I know people will help me to work on solutions for security problems,” she said.

Marisol Valles is a 20 year old mother of a baby son, still a student and she is also the newest chief of police in a drug-plagued region of northern Mexico.

Freedom of Speech

african, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Hasn’t this simple concept has caused so much debate and so many problems?

Political illustration

african, idea, illustration, Ken Wilson-Max

I never thought I was political. As a teen it didn’t matter until the country changed (was liberated). It went from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe Rhodesia and then finally to Zimbabwe. Even as a not too bothered teen the birth of Zimbabwe was a euphoric experience. The last couple of posts have a political feel to them. My first published illustration was a political one, a cover for a magazine called Moto (Fire) which had found evidence of a massacre by the new Zimbabwe government. Around 20 000 people were terrorised and killed in the run  up to the country’s first elections and buried in shallow graves. The event was covered up for many years due to the all-seeing eye and iron grip of the new government, but eventually more evidence surfaced and for the first time people saw what their new government was capable of. I remember waiting for the door of our studio (The Maviyane Project) to be kicked down but it never came.  Some years later press freedom in Zimbabwe was, and still is, severely restricted meaning that if such an article came out again doors would definitely be knocked down, people dragged away, their futures immediately uncertain.

Other happy subjects I illustrated; corruption, rape and poverty. I was 17 but I felt the emotional burden of someone much older.

I’m ready to make these illustrations again almost 30 years later.

You can read about Moto magazine here, and about the Maviyane Project’s Chaz Maviyane Davies here.