An unforgettable visual experience


A world of fascinating visuals was recently created at the Alliance Francaise, where French illustrator Joelle Jolivet was in conversation with children’s book author Karthika Nair.

In Bangalore to launch their book ‘The Honey Hunter’, the two collaborators shared the entire process of putting the book together and took the audience on an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Sundarbans.

Adapted from a section of choreographer Akram Khan’s dance-drama Desh of which Karthika was the scriptwriter, the story revolves around the adventures of Shonu, whose parents are honey-gatherers. Beautifully illustrated and worded, the book explores the world of mangrove forests, a demon-tiger and Bonbibi, the presiding goddess of the forests.

What was interesting was to understand how the book emerged from scratch — from anecdotes about the search for the right illustrator to a clipping of Desh to the initial sketches by Joelle.

“Nothing was really phantasmagoric when we were looking for the illustrator. The ones we found were too disciplined, whereas a story of this nature needed
elements of mystery and wonder as it’s an upside down world I’ve created. Luckily for us, Joelle turned out to be the best French illustrator,” said Karthika.

The discussion was moderated by Anita Roy of the book’s publishing company Zubaan. “In my 25 years in this industry, this is the most beautiful book I’ve published. It’s a wonderful example of how much you can do collaboratively instead of individually,” she shared.

Joelle openly shared the process of creating the artwork and stated that she likes to illustrate each book differently from the last one.

“I didn’t want to make any mistake representing a culture that isn’t mine. So I did a lot of research about the mangroves, animals and art styles like pattachitra that
I could work with. Then I started working on developing Indian colours, the page layout and finally, the actual sketches.”

The turnout was quite impressive for a weekday morning, with a majority of the crowd being the students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. Pooja, the facilitator of the college, was thoroughly moved by the session. “Meeting both the author and illustrator was beautiful because we’re also trying to build visual narratives for our projects. The exposure to the step-wise process
was rather luxurious and the honesty with which they so generously shared their knowledge really came through,” she said.

Devangana, a third-year student of the college, added, “The illustration style was inspired from magical realism, which was really unique. As students of design, we learnt a lot from both of them and I’m glad that our college brought us for this.”

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