Friday, June 29, 2012

The Story of Colors, by Subcomandante Marcos

The Story of Colors / La Historia de los Colores : A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas
by Subcomandante Marcos
illustrated by  Domitila Dominguez ("Domi")
translated by Anne Bar Din
Guadalajara, Cinco Puntos

The resistance leader of indigenous Mexico spins a tale of the gods' creation of color, showing that the world is better when seen in more than black and white.

A simple folktale of how the colors came to be leads to a metaphor for worldwide diversity. The gods were bored and quarrelsome with only black, white, and shades of gray, and they wanted to improve the world for themselves and for human men and women. Their emotions created colors, which were spread to the people and the animals (especially the multicolored macaw), in order to remind them "how many colors there are and how many ways of thinking, and that the world will be happy if all the colors and ways of thinking have their place".
The translated text (present in both Spanish and English in this edition) is somewhat unusual in syntax, but lyrical like a story told by an elder to children gathered on the side of a mountain. Domi's thick swathes of color are equally stirring whether in monochrome palette (blue, "the color of the world", or the yellow of a child's stolen laugh) or gloriously mixed all together on the page. The illustrations are the focus of the format -- apropos to the topic -- and text is kept below a line on each page, with no interaction with the pictures.
The lesson of multiculturalism is simple enough for a younger child to comprehend (and the book is often categorized as for ages 4-8), but presented in a way -- with textual references to cigarette-smoking and love-making -- that would make the story more suitable to an adolescent audience. Class discussion would likely delve into the identity of "Subcomandante Marcos" and the tactics of political propaganda, and could address indigenous mythology and the effects of a conqueror's government upon native culture.

no Author Info
Illustrator Info
Medium: oils, perhaps? The paint has depth and texture and seems as if it were painted on fired clay.

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