Arts such as painting, photography, sculpture, acting, music, singing, dancing and literature are all a source of education, nurturing imagination and tasting beauty. They nourish the soul and mind at the same time, while targeting both children and adults even if both target groups differ in materials.
Children’s literature is no different from literature written for adults in its core and tools, but it is distinguished by its topics, ideas and method of writing. As children’s literature is extremely important, many including Leila Al-Hayek consider it a “national necessity and a requirement for cultural development, as any such process that neglects children’s literature is lacking and incomprehensive, for reasons related to the actual cognitive formation of humans. Children’s literature in itself is an educative tool to resist colonialist media and culture’s influence.
In this essay, we discuss children’s literature in Palestine, especially illustrations that feature within the stories, and how they influence children and complement the ideas expressed by the story, read and told by the children.
Lubna Taha is a Palestinian artist who started as an amateur painter, but soon started working with children’s literature right after she completed her BA in English literature.
Lubna started working professionally in the field of children’s literature through illustrating books for children. She told us about her beginnings: “My first illustrated book was “The Well’s Songs”, by Anas Abu Rahmeh. This book is a collection of short stories for young adults. It was published in 2009 by Tamer Institute for Community Education. The illustrations of the book received the Ministry of Culture’s Children’s Literature award for the best illustrations in 2009- 2010. It was a milestone in my career, I learned a lot from it, especially how to engage in the children’s world and fantasy. My first book also established the beginnings of my own artistic style and line.”
Children’s literature in Palestine and the Arab world has developed in the last few years through the establishment of specialised publishing houses, especially in Lebanon, which take into consideration not only a text that triggers the child’s imagination, but also a visual style that invites children to question. Lubna added, “However, those publishers, authors and illustrators are still a minority, children’s literature is still seen by many as an educational tool only, that should teach children morals and community values, the language is also tedious, with stereotypical roles of adults and children.”
Lubna spoke of the specificity of illustrating children’s books. She said: “In my illustrations I become a child and start drawing what used to amuse me when I was a little kid: the details, a patterned sock, a cup of tea, my grandmother’s hair. Children notice details and they love them. Through becoming a child again I use fantasy, and the naughty ideas of children.
I worked with different publishers in Palestine, like Tamer Institute, Ogharit, AswarAkka, and in Lebanon with Asala, yet my major work was with Tamer Institute. Tamer also organise workshops on illustrations and organise art exchanges between national and international illustrators.
Currently I am illustrating a book published by author Anas Abu Rahmeh, which talks about a boy who loses his leg in the war and he has a football match; the book was printed in Gaza. It is an amazing and colorful story. In addition to this I am working on illustrating two books and a personal project, my own book which I hope to publish at the end of this year.