With the Football World Cup kicking off tomorrow in South Africa it seems like a perfect opportunity to find out a little more about children’s picture books from South Africa. Although I’ve done a fair bit of research (more on this below), I have been rather hampered by the fact that our local library has recently closed “for the foreseeable future” because asbestos has been discovered there… I feel bereft!
Anyway, through the online library catalogue and inter-library loan and a bus trip to another library we’ve come up with a book that we’ve really taken to – The Dove by Dianne Stewart, illustrated by Jude Daly.
The Dove, set in the South African province of Natal, tells the story of Lindi and her Grandmother who are tying to make ends meet after a flood destroys crops and sweeps away many animals. They make beaded trinkets to sell in tourist shops in Durban but have little success until they decide instead of their usual keyrings to make a dove, inspired by the first animal on their land after the flood had subsided. Their beaded animals and people are a hit and now Lindi and her Grandmother need not worry about having enough money until the next harvest.
M loved the story because of the sewing/creating theme, J enjoyed the small details in the illustrations (which actually reminded me a little of Gauguin in their style), and I loved the story for its freshness and believability – it was a great introduction for my girls into (what seems to me) “real” South Africa, rather than a version you might find preserved in an open air museum (although it would be very interesting to hear what any South African readers have to say about the themes in this book). This story set in modern South Africa would be the perfect read before holidaying there – a great way to start thinking about the people behind the trinkets we might bring back from visiting there.
Inspired by this gentle book I ordered a selection of African beads and buttons from The African Fabric Shop – a favourite place of mine if a non-book treat is in order. M used these beads to create two pieces of art – one for her room, and one for J’s room. We used some embroidery hoops we’d picked up in a charity shop, a large needle and some embroidery thread and then M set about designing her African villages and sewing them in place.
These pieces have turned out beautifully, even if I say so myself!