Pam Dix, Chair of IBBY UK, reports on BIB, Biennale for Illustration Bratislava.
Piet Grobler’s article in BfK 225 outlined the background to BIB, Biennale for Illustration Bratislava, the process of submitting illustrations and the UK entries for the 2017 competition. The UK submission was collaboration between the two nominating bodies – IBBY UK and ICPBS (International Centre for the Picture Book in Society) So it was with some excitement and curiosity that I went to Bratislava earlier this month to see what it’s all about. I was joined by the team from ICPBS and a few of our UK entrants.
Bratislava is a beautiful city of less than half a million inhabitants in Slovakia, itself a small country. It is quite a feat to pull off such a high status international competition, and to have done so for more than 50 years. The organisers are immensely proud of this, especially as they have held on to the Award during all the political changes the country has undergone. In alternate years they hold an equivalent animation award in which the UK does not currently participate. They have sent us back on a mission to rectify this.
At the start in the 1960s, the illustration award was both a celebration of the enthusiasm there was for illustrated children’s books in the region and a way of bringing the world to a country whose people could not travel easily. The BIB Director, Zuzana Jarasova, told us at the award ceremony, ‘When a group of people passionate about beautiful picture books for children in Slovakia led by Dušan Roll were starting BIB over half a century ago, they had a motto: “Since we are not able to travel into the world, let the world come to us!”’
In 2017, the 26th award, the world is still coming with 49 countries, 373 illustrators, 488 books and almost 2700 illustrations. These all have to be considered by the international panel of 10 judges and all submitted illustrations are displayed. This year the BIB exhibition was held in a new venue, the Slovak National Museum.
In the Museum, the BIB exhibition is organised over two floors, and to see 2700 illustrations takes a lot of looking. In addition there are accompanying exhibitions: Laura Carlin, the BIB Grand Prix winner 2015; Rotraut Susanne Berner and Cao Wenxuan, the current Hans Christian Andersen Award laureates for illustration and literature respectively; the Slovakian illustrator, Svetozár Mydlo; and an exhibition from Nami Island in South Korea.
The winners were announced at a glamorous award ceremony in the Slovak National Theatre. Introducing the awards, the BIB Director said ‘As long as there are people on this planet who believe that beauty and art can make our world a better place, and especially that it is children who deserve the best, picture books still remain for children the first step into the world of art. After all, in spite of so often proclaimed end or death of classical books in the time of digitalisation, we are witnessing just the opposite – a new renaissance of the picture book’.
BIB Grand Prix winner 2017
Ludwig Volbeda, Netherlands: The Birds (author: Ted van Lieshout)
BIB Golden Apple Awards
Narges Mohamadi, Iran: I was a Deer (author: Ahmad Akbarpour)
Maki Arai, Japan: Dandelion
Ji-Min Kim, South Korea: Hide & Seek
Ana Desnitskaya, Russia: The Old Russian Home (author: Alexandra Litvina)
Daniela Olejníková, Slovakia: Verminarium (author: Jin Dvorak) / The Escape (author: Marek Vadas)
BIB Plaque Awards
Hanne Bartholin, Denmark: A Story about You / A Story about Everything (author: Seren Lind)
Ofra Amit, israel: So-So, Go-Go, and Sunny (author: Dafni Ben-Zvi)
Mirocomachiko, Japan: Beasts Smelling
Israel Barrón, Mexico: Bestiary of Mexican Fantastic Beings (author: Norma Muñoz Ledo)
Romana Romanyshin & Andryi Lesiv, Ukraine: Loudly, Softly, in a Whisper / Ivan Franko From A to Z (Natalia & Bohdan Tykholozy)
Each winning illustration can be seen under the BIB 2017 section.
We were disappointed not to have any winners amongst our wonderful UK entries but nevertheless were proud of our stand. I was surprised by the number of events that accompany the BIB programme. There is a two-day international symposium, this year on the theme of Art v Commerce. We were able to dip in and out of sessions between visiting exhibitions. I went to hear Chinese Vice President of IBBY, Mingzhou Zhang, talk about the growing interest in picture books in China and the new market that is opening up because of this. He told us the mind-boggling fact that there are 386 million young people under 18, quite a market.
Also in Bratislava and the home to all this work and activity is Bibiana, the International House of Art for Children. It was founded in 1987 to promote illustration for children and has a wonderful programme of workshops for school and other groups as well as for individual visitors. Their current exhibitions include one on ‘Isms’ in art, one on emotions and one study of a book about life under the sea. All are fully immersive, interactive and exciting.
Bibiana also hosted the opening of the exhibition of the ICPBS Migration Project, which has now attracted more than 300 entries from all over the world. Illustrators have been asked to contribute a postcard with an image of a bird and a message for refugees on the back. The catalogue includes an introduction from Shaun Tan. This attracted a good deal of attention and talk in Bratislava and it is indeed a simple but brilliant concept which fires the imagination. Various exhibitions, events and publications are planned for this work and we hope to find a venue for a London exhibition. The Worcester team led a number of workshops for art students and children during our visit and this exhibition will be open for 2 months.
Bibiana is home to a specialist library of children’s illustrated books. The collection includes copies of all the books entered over the 50 plus years of BIB, together with works of all Hans Christian Andersen winners and all IBBY Honour Books. This is a very useful resource and the librarians are keen to collaborate on ideas to exploit it. They have recently done an exhibition for the European Union on illustrated fairy tales from the 28 EU countries.
If you are ever in Bratislava, make time to visit Bibiana and if you can go in September to BIB it is a very rewarding experience, 2019 will be the next opportunity.