Artists Tap Into Their Memories

This week, I visited Johanna Young’s class in Concord. Her 35 adult students are from Bhutan. We came to get their help with spot illustrations to complete a bilingual Nepali English folktale. Ambika Sharma, our interpreter, read the story in Nepali and from the story we created a list of words – parts of the natural world that tell the story in symbols.

In the story, a young mother sings a lullaby as she returns to her crying baby. She passes a cow in the barn on her way and sings “Don’t cry, don’t cry, Mali cow, I’ve come to feed my baby.” Kapil Dhungel, who helped to translate the story, explained that a mali cow is a type of cow with black and white markings. Here a student creates a mali cow, and we’ll use his drawing in the book.

Susan Gaylord, our designer, is designing the layout of the book for a second time, combining Dal Rai’s water color scenes with spot illustrations. The student’s drawings were very detailed, portraying a pumpkin with a web of vines as well as its roots. I think that these new Americans who grew up on farms in Bhutan know every aspect of trees, fruits, and vegetable. We see they draw these details maybe from the memory in their fingers from when they worked the land. When Kapil and his wife were reading the story with me, they laughed and laughed. “Terry, this is good,” he said. “This is so enjoyable for my people.”

Originally posted by  on January 14, 2012.

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