Niki Daly on cross-cultural storytelling

Niki Daly, the world-famous South African children’s book illustrator and storyteller, gave a wonderful talk at the Obs Library in Cape Town on Tuesday. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity as his books were a special part of my childhood. Masha du Toit, multimedia navigator at my wonderful college, Vega, was also there. She writes about it on her blog, Nightcity:

One of the themes of his talk was the question of why he creates what he calls “multicultural” books – he asks himself the question – “how can a white man tell stories about black people – and why would he want to do so?”

He reminded us of his question – how can a white person tell the story of a black person – and then proceeded to suggest some answers.

“There is more to a person than their race, or their cultural practices. We are all human.” He spoke about being “inoculated against hatred” by the very system that dehumanised black people – because he was brought up by two black women who he grew to love. He emphasized that where apartheid focused on “difference” and “separateness”, what one should do instead is to find the common ground, that which we share. “As humans, we have the amazing ability to empathize. And after all, a writer can dare to imagine”.

He said that it is a mistake to classify his books a being about black children. They are about working class children. Children who like himself, did not have all the toys, all the parental attention, all the advantages. Who might also have spent most of their time “sitting on the sidewalk, picking the scabs off their knees.”

Click here to read Masha’s full post.

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