The beautiful book Migrantes, by Issa Watanabe, brings impactful illustrations about the plight of refugees

By Eduarda Uzêda

“Migrants, refugees, displaced people, bombings, violence, war, hunger, fear, exodus, camps, boys, girls, orphans, boats, rescues, drowned, borders, stateless people, illegals, missing people, humanitarian crisis, global pact on migration, rights humans... silence. How many borders do they have to cross to get home?” The text is by Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos (1935- -2012) and is present on the back cover of the art book Migrantes, by Peruvian visual artist Issa Watanabe.

The work features wordless illustrations, but which say as much as the director's. Not only do they speak, they evoke, cause commotion and provoke reflection. The publication that narrates the migration journey of a group of anthropomorphized animals (referring to men, women, old people and children who appear to be different nationalities) has great imagery power.

It also presents an impactful testimony of all the suffering of those who left a life of anguish and uncertainty behind, in search of hope for better days. In times of refugee crisis in Afghanistan, with the takeover of power by the Islamic extremist group Taliban, the records of thousands of people crammed into the airport and some hanging onto the plane, to escape a tragic fate, are as shocking as Watanabe's testimony, which seems to call for humanitarian action.

In Migrantes, animals/humans cross dark forests of leafless trees, perhaps a metaphor for the oppressive regimes that destroy the fruits of life and creation. Almost at the end of the journey, discolored flowers appear and, later, the colors return to the leaves of the trees. But on the back cover the dark forests return, signaling a cycle that will likely repeat itself.

Exquisite editing

The Brazilian edition, the result of a partnership between Selo Emília, Solisluna Editora and Livros da Raposa Vermelha, is exquisite. The hardcover book with beautiful illustrations, recently launched in Brazil, features anthropomorphized animals in scenes that also dismay the world: the fugitives packed into a boat in the ocean, facing the currents and storms.

Who doesn't remember the sad images of Africans who arrived in precarious boats on the Italian islands of Lampedusa and Sicily?

Of the bodies – including children – floating in the sea? and the dozens of migrants who were found dead in rubber boats in the Mediterranean, apparently suffocated after inhaling fuel?

In Watanabe's book, the migrants, while crossing the forest, are closely accompanied by death, drawn with a skull face and a flowery cloak. Even when they travel by sea, death watches over them riding on a beautiful blue bird (a pelican?). It is this tiny death that supports a rabbit, which cannot resist and was left behind by the other animals. They mourn the loss, but must continue their journey.


Photojournalism

In an interview for the Portuguese edition, the author states that the first drawings of Migrantes were triggered by work by Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman with Syrian children, victims of war, and by a story lived by the author in Mallorca, Spain, with the reception of a refugee.

Watanabe wanted to tell children and teenagers, regardless of culture or geographic origin, what forced migration is without masking the facts. The option to draw animals and create a book without words ended up winning over adults too.

This is a Book to read several times because, at each moment, a detail of the author's traits becomes more emblematic. It is a work to read with children who will ask many questions, such as: why does death offer travelers a suitcase? Why are they running away? Time to reflect and develop answers.

It is a publication to enjoy alongside your loved one, remembering the experience of migration in a foreign land. Or to read alone, and cry in silence, because words don't do it all, and the meaning of the term humanity seems to have been lost. And as the Peruvian poet Javier Heraud remembers, quoted in another edition of the author's book, “each one is made of a piece of death and path...”.

It is an edition to give as gifts to others and to yourself.

( Text published in Jornal A Tarde on 8/23/2021.)

To go back

1 comment

Sejamos fortes para saber fazer a diferença…

Élida Fernandes Maciel Sousa

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

  • Um papo com Mira Silva

    Um papo com Mira Silva

    Representatividade e protagonismo negro na literatura infantil. Reconhecida profissional do audiovisual, Mira Silva comandou, por muitos anos, diversos programas de destaque na Rede Bahia, em Salvador. Atualmente, é diretora do...

    Um papo com Mira Silva

    Representatividade e protagonismo negro na literatura infantil. Reconhecida profissional do audiovisual, Mira Silva comandou, por muitos anos, diversos programas de destaque na Rede Bahia, em Salvador. Atualmente, é diretora do...

  • Solisluna indicada ao Bologna Prize, uma das premiações literárias mais importantes do mundo

    Solisluna indicada ao Bologna Prize, uma das premiações literárias mais importantes do mundo

    A Solisluna está concorrendo, pela primeira vez, como Editora do Ano ao Bologna Prize (BOP) Best Children´s Publishers of the Year, uma das premiações literárias para as infâncias mais importantes do mundo....

    Solisluna indicada ao Bologna Prize, uma das premiações literárias mais importantes do mundo

    A Solisluna está concorrendo, pela primeira vez, como Editora do Ano ao Bologna Prize (BOP) Best Children´s Publishers of the Year, uma das premiações literárias para as infâncias mais importantes do mundo....

  • Lilia Gramacho

    A chat with Lilia Gramacho

    Lilia Gramacho is a journalist, publicist, psychologist and writer. The different professions have one thing in common and reveal something about them: the love of listening and telling stories. “Journalism...

    A chat with Lilia Gramacho

    Lilia Gramacho is a journalist, publicist, psychologist and writer. The different professions have one thing in common and reveal something about them: the love of listening and telling stories. “Journalism...

  • Exposição Encontro do Sol com a Lua - Solisluna 30 anos

    2023: a Solislunic year

    End of the year. Time to take stock of what we have experienced in the last 12 months. And I begin the text by stating that the word that summarizes...

    2023: a Solislunic year

    End of the year. Time to take stock of what we have experienced in the last 12 months. And I begin the text by stating that the word that summarizes...

1 of 4