Magabala Books, based in Broome, Western Australia, is an Australian indigenous publishing house. They’re committed to using aboriginal illustrators for their growing list of children’s books, but aboriginal illustrators are as few and far between as towns in that part of the country. So manager Suzie Hazlehurst put together a proposal to train and mentor promising talent. With funding from Writing WA and artsource, Suzie invited artists and likely future artists recommended by the local art centers in the Kimberley region to participate. She brought illustrator Ann James from Melbourne’s Books Illustrated to teach two 4-day intensive courses, one in Broome and one in Perth, with about a dozen participants each.
“Ann did a great job teaching both established artists and people with no experience in art mediums,” Suzie says. “Illustration requires specific skills. Artists have to know how to work with publishers, writers, and designers. They need to understand layout and collaborate on deciding which parts of a story need more detail.” Three workshop participants submitted exciting sample illustrations, she reports, and are now being mentored for particular titles.
Furthermore, Magabala is mentoring a young Adelaide writer on his graphic novel, which will also be the first graphic novel Magabala has published. The publishing manager is overseeing editorial guidance and a Melbourne designer with much graphic novel experience is offering design input. The target publishing date is late 2008 for this 3-way collaboration.
Magabala’s star is rising. The company, started in 1984, became an Independent Aboriginal Corporation in 1990. A recent move into the old Visitors’ Center in Broome, across the street from the new Visitors’ Center, has increased visibility and growth. A bush garden is in the works, as are gift products to be developed from the “artistic collateral” of their books. “Broome gets 300,000 visitors a year,” Suzie muses, “and if only a tenth of them bought one of our books…”
Wondering what the word Magabala means? Check it out here. For more about Australian indigenous book publishing, visit PaperTigers here. And here’s a PaperTigers review of one of Magabala’s most endearing titles, My Home in Kakadu. Who knows how much this one book has done to increase respect for the indigenous cultures of Australia?