Fynbos Fairies launches at the CTBF and you're invited. See what Antjie Krog has to say about this delightful book of children's verse

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Antjie Krog has once again brought us a delightful new children’s book, a book readers of all ages are bound to fall in love with. Have you ever wondered about the secrets of Fynbos? Well Antjie Krog uses verse along with Fiona Moodie’s beautiful illustrations to let us in on those secrets, and open up the world of Fynbos Feetjies to all. This book has also been translated into English by Gus Ferguson and is called Fynbos Fairies. With a team like that you know it’s a must-have.

We asked Antjie Krog and Fiona Moodie a few questions about how the book came together, read what they say:

Fynbos Feetjies / Fynbos Fairies sounds delightful. What inspired you to create this book?

Antjie: Fairies allow children to connect in a magical way to the mineral, animal and plant worlds. Through fairies the child can move from stressful and alienating places into a healthy space of fantasy and belonging. For example, there's a kraanvoëlblom bush or strelitzia that I always walk past with klein Antjie, my grandchild. I could have told her it is a kraanvoël bush, but then I would actually have had to show her that particular kind of kraanvoël first for the name to make real sense. But when I told her the flower was really a little dragon with flames bursting from its head, she immediately had a special bond with the kraanvoël bush - the idea of a little fiery dragon allowed the bush to stand out sharply among the others. With that thought in mind I wanted to create more creatures for her so that more plants could enter her four-year-old world. It is only recently that I discovered that the theorists say the transmission of the notion of fairies depends entirely on old women.

Fiona: I'd been wanting to do a South African version of the Flower Fairies for years but I didn't tell anyone, as far as I can remember. I wanted to use indigenous plants and have them populated by indigenous fairies - not the little transparent Eurocentric ones that are the norm.

I did three little pictures - arum lily fairies, a Karoo succulent elf and some cycad fairies, but I didn't show them to anyone, couldn't write poems to go with them, and put them away in a drawer (but didn't quite forget them).

How did the fairies present themselves to you? Was it easy to put them into words?

Antjie: It usually started with a strong sensuous connection. The arum lily … its coolness, its stillness – how does one convey the magicality of the feeling of the arum lily, that yellow spadix? The fairies are not mere inhabitants, they represent something of the essence, of the mystery of the beingness of the plant. I believe one can find that only with rhyme, because the rhythm of nursery rhymes brings you to the magical and emotional appeal of language - something you cannot learn, but will stay at the root of your tongue.

How did the illustrations develop?

Fiona: Antjie would put a batch of poems into my letterbox - sometimes written freehand. There were gaps between the deliveries of the poems. I would find them in the letterbox, think about them, choose the ones I liked best and start drawing.

I felt incredibly free to do whatever I wanted. Antjie didn't impose her thoughts on me at all, besides stipulating that the plants be accurately depicted, recognisable. The poems suggested images, I studied the relevant plant and just took it from there. Antjie saw the finished art work only from time to time and she seemed to like them, so I just carried on.
I tried to have the real plant in front of me when I was painting. I walk a lot on the mountain and look at things and go to Kirstenbosch Gardens. One of the flowers I couldn't get (wrong season) was the Protea repens, or suikerbossie, so I had to do it from photos. Now they are everywhere – so frustrating!

I used water colour and sometimes Ecoline, which is liquid water colour in a little bottle.
I tried to put insects and animals which are naturally associated with the plants in the pictures and sometimes I used real places on the mountain as settings.

Illustrating the poems was a complete joy and I feel so lucky to have been able to do it and grateful to Antjie for asking me, and to Annari van der Merwe of Umuzi for producing the book so beautifully.


Antjie Krog provided the verses and Fiona Moodie provided the illustrations for Fynbos Feetjies / Fynbos Fairies. Can you tell our readers a bit about your collaboration on this book?

Antjie: Strangely enough, we started working with fairies separately. When we discovered we were both doing it, we decided to work together. Initially we were going to do just any plant we fancied, but then more and more it came down to fynbos. Mostly I wrote the first drafts, and Fiona would go through them and start on those that she liked. Sometimes I changed the texts, or she changed the drawings. When Gus Ferguson came in as a translator, some things changed again - so there are wonderful slippages, and because nothing is merely mirroring something else, it leaves a lot of space for the child's imagination.

Fiona: I've known Antjie for some years now - we met through our mutual friend, the poet Ingrid de Kok, and Antjie lives only a few roads from me. One day she phoned out of the blue and asked if I would like to illustrate a book of South African plant fairies. I was absolutely delighted and excited and said yes, of course.




Fynbos Feetjies | Fynbos Fairies
Antjie Krog & Fiona Moodie
English version by Gus Ferguson
ISBN 978-1-4152-0022-3
32 pages

So join Antjie Krog, Fiona Moodie and Gus Ferguson at the Cape Town Book Fair, being held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 June to 19 June 2007, for the launch of this lovely book. Be at the Exclusive Books Stand (F1) at 11:00 on 16 June, or visit the Umuzi/Random House Stand (H10) on the Exhibition Floor at 16:00 on Sunday, 17 June for the launch of this book. All are welcome.

Don't forget to visit the Kid's Zone with the little ones too!

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