Weekend Herald - Canvas
Five quick questions with Isobel Joy Te Aho-white
1 For those who don’t know, what is The Astromancer, written by Witi Ihimaera and illustrated by yourself, about? The Astromancer is a story about a girl named Ari and her journey to fulfil her destiny with the help of the mentors and friends she makes. It incorporates some historical events, characters and purakau Maori, as well as details from a present day perspective so it could be taking place on an alternate timeline.
2 How did you get into illustrating children’s books? I started by making zines [homemade publications] about atua Maori and the medicinal uses of native plants and selling them at local markets. From there I made connections at School Journal and Huia Publishers, and it kind of snowballed from there.
3 What inspires you? Tai o [the environment], purakau [stories and legends], scientific illustration, learning and teaching and my own whakapapa.
4 What was it like to work with Witi Ihimaera? Witi is lovely and has an incredibly sharp, creative mind. Though I was quite daunted by this project at first, Witi provided space for me to fully envision this world in my own way which allowed my creativity to flourish, mirroring the tuakana-teina [older-younger] relationship that is central to the story.
5 How will you celebrate Matariki? With friends, food, and the night sky!