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!

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