Storytelling Formulas. how illustration is bringing African stories to life

Only recently did I start working at a publishing house or at least an organisation that in part runs a publishing house. Thanks to this I am more acquainted with the behind-the-scenes that go into publishing a book at the scale of a start-up indie publishing house.

At Imagine We I’ve become acquainted with illustration especially now that I work alongside an illustrator for our children’s books and upcoming graphic novels. I had never thought about it but Illustration is a ubiquitous art form. It is one of the most versatile art forms in today’s visual culture. Contemporary illustration is a new movement with illustrators drawing influences from graffiti, fashion, computer games and animation.

Illustration has often been partnered with the publishing industry, advertising campaigns, or used politically for satire describing and supporting textbooks, magazines and newspapers. Illustrators are paid to bring an idea to life, whether it’s the science behind the human brain or a child’s fairy tale and this has often placed it as commercial than “artistic”. But if we take illustration seriously as a form of intellectual and cultural production that influences, reproduces, and bolsters public and private discourse, what do the pictures we make and the way we represent them say about our personal and public perceptions.

We talk often about the power of visual imagery in the perception of communities and broadening representation. Illustrations are a good place to start but more often than not in this young industry it tends to be one dimensional. I’m not saying that these illustrations aren’t good or smart. A lot of them are witty, technically proficient, well composed, and beautiful to look at with a unique style. That’s all well and good but we need to think carefully about it, and look at the topic from many angles and points of view. Hopefully we are part of the movement changing the narrative one comic book at a time here at Imagine We.