Fatime, Fatou, Fatoumata is a beautifully simple picture book dedicated to little girls all over the world. The wording is simple and rhythmic; notes on the back-cover focus on its ‘music’ comparing the text to a score with two voices. Each page comprises two short stanzas with a third stanza, the chorus, on both the first and final pages.
This is not a classic picture book with plot, characterisation, beginning, middle and end. Instead, Chantal Serrière’s gentle sing-song text provides lovely insights into the daily life of young girls in Guinea. Some of their activities will be familiar to little girls (and little boys) everywhere, such as playing shops or going to school. Others are more unusual to a reader from the Western world: the girls grind palm nuts with mortars and pestles and carry their brothers on their backs (the accompanying illustration shows the boys tucked into traditional African baby slings). I think the text and illustrations could prompt interesting discussions with younger readers about similarities and differences in lifestyles.
The artwork – in watercolour by Guinean artist Papus – is what make this tiny picture book a stand-out. And that is the idea. A note on the back cover informs us : “les mots et leur musique se sont mis entièrement au service de la peinture”. The text and rhythm are there to give emphasis to the beauty of the illustrations. And what glorious illustrations they are, too! Warm colour, light and movement emanate from every page. The young girls are simply shown. We cannot make out the detail, such as facial expressions, but look closely and notice the soft fuzz of the girls’ hair, the light and shade of their clothing. Energy and life are conveyed in their stance and gestures.
The simple text and engaging illustrations make Fatime, Fatou, Fatoumata a lovely picture book for the very young or those learning to read.
Fatime, Fatou, Fatoumata by Chantal Serrière, illustrated by Aboubcar Demba Bangoura ‘Papus’ (Editions Ganndal, 2005) – title not currently available in English
Chantal Serrière was born in Montceau-les-Mines in France. She is a writer, poet and linguistics expert, who is passionate about promoting and expressing cultural identity through her books. Her work has taken her all over the world, notably to Niger where she was advisor to the Minister of Education, and Madagascar. She has published a number of books with Editions Ganndal in Guinea, including a series of musical tales.
Aboubcar Demba Bangoura known as ‘Papus’ was born in Conakry in 1968 and is one of Guinea’s best-known artists. He is self-taught and regularly exhibits his work in Guinea. A selection of his beautiful artwork can be seen here.