Black History Month: Long Walk to Freedom
14 September 2009Add to My Folder
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Learn about the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela through his new, child-friendly autobiography
Nelson Mandela hardly needs any introduction. Arguably the best-known and most respected statesman of our time, he is also a person of extraordinary humanity whose love for, and interest in, children is legendary. The timely appearance of the official picture book version of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (Macmillan) coincides with October’s Black History Month, when the contributions made by people of Caribbean and African origin around the world are celebrated. This book introduces children to a wonderful personality who is a role model for all. When I was asked to illustrate this book, one of the challenges I faced was illustrating long periods of Mandela’s life for which there is little or no photographic record: the prison years (during which time his appearance changed dramatically) and the years of his childhood. While there are forensic methods to find out how he would have looked, and computer modelling, I eventually realised that it was important to capture not so much the detail of Mandela’s features as the expression. It is in that benevolent and kindly look – the beaming smile and the twinkling humour – that that we recognise him, as too in the unfailing dignity of his bearing.
Chris van Wyk’s abridged version of Long Walk to Freedom presents this famous autobiography in a sympathetic and child-friendly way, while covering the important events of the era. The text focuses on the emotions felt by the much-loved narrator as we follow him from his carefree childhood, marred only by the early loss of his father, to his development into a confident and attractive young man. Mandela’s almost mythical stature as a charismatic leader in difficult and dangerous times leads to its culmination in his dramatic trial. The dark days in prison make moving reading, offset by his triumph in having achieved a unified and just South Africa.
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