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Lighting Our World – Obon & Ramadan September 19th, 2012

I was so pleased to be asked to illustrate this childrens book by Julia Naimska from Kids Can Press (written by Catherine Rodina). The book is a tour of the world’s brightest and warmest festivities seen through the eyes of children and includes the festivals of: Up Helly Aa, Chinese New Year, Las Fallas, Nowruz, Walpurgis Night, Cinco de Mayo, Inti Raymi, Obon, Tet Trung Thu, Diwali, Ramadan, and Hanukkah as well as many others.

The tricky thing about this project was that all the main pages had the same layout, with the type on the left and and a gutter running through the last third of the composition. This made it difficult to make each composition unique and interesting and not cut a poor kid’s face off in the middle of the spread. So I tried to play with the composition by varying the sizes of the main characters and elements in each spread. Another issue to tackle was the fact that most of these lighting festivals take place at night and I didn’t want the same night sky and glowing lanterns shown in each instance. My solution was starting with a different coloured backgrounds for each piece and layering colours on top to try and show the vibrancy of the lights and hopefully having something new and eye-catching with each turn of the page.

If you’re interested in this book, you can now get it now from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or Chapters or Indigo. Thanks for the support! Here are the pages and some process pics for Obon and Ramadan.

Lighting Our World (Kids Can Press) - Obon sketch by Jacqui Oakley

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist holiday to honor the departed spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist festival has evolved into a family reunion during which people from the big cities return to their home towns to visit and pay respects to their ancestors’ graves. Traditionally including a dance festival, it has existed in Japan for more than 500 years and also includes, Toro Nagashi, where family and friends of the departed place a candle inside a paper lantern and float these lights down a river. This symbolizes the spirits’ journeys back to the world of the dead. As the vessel sinks and the light is extinguished, the soul is said to return to the spirit-world. What a lovely holiday.

Here’s some ink and acrylic paint process shots for the Obon painting:

Lighting Our World (Kids Can Press) - Obon illustration by Jacqui Oakley

Some photos of this beautiful festival:

Obon - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

A lovely illustration by Tracy Bishop about Obon. She’s captured the light beautifully in this piece. Check out her site to see whimsical children’s illustrations like this.

Obon illustration by Tracy Bishop

When I was researching images for this holiday I came across these amazing vintage photos from the archives from the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple. Here you can see the Japanese community celebrating Obon in Los Angeles.

Obon- West Los Angeles Buddist Temple Archive

Ramadan is the Muslim month of fasting. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness. While fasting from dawn until sunset Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and sex. According to Islam, the sawab (rewards) of fasting are many, but in this month they are believed to be multiplied. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Quran. In this illustration I’ve shown the children carrying the colorfully lit Fanoos lanterns through the streets while people prepare to feast after the long day of fasting.

Lighting Our World (Kids Can Press) - Ramadan sketch by Jacqui Oakley

Lighting Our World (Kids Can Press) - Ramadan illustration by Jacqui Oakley

Ramadan - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

Here’s a lady-like picture of me in Bahrain (I’m the one in the green polka-dots). Obviously I’ve become more mature and sensible over the years (th0ugh a good bowl-cut and polka-dots never go out of style)… Growing up in Bahrain in the Middle East I remember Ramadan vividly. It was a holiday that my family, not being Muslims, didn’t participate in but of course was around us each year for a month. I remember as a kid, my parents telling me to be respectful and not to eat food in plain sight during the days of fasting and not quite understanding why. I do feel very thankful that my parents gave us the experience of growing up surrounded by varied cultures, religions and traditions. I feel like it’s given me an outlook out the world that I might not have had otherwise. Hopefully I’ll have more chances to live in different countries in my life.

J. Oakley - Bahrain

(Sorry If I didn’t credit anyone for any of the photos shown above. Please let me know if one of these is yours and I’ll be happy to credit you or take it down)


One Response to Lighting Our World – Obon & Ramadan

  1. Pingback: Lighting Our World: Book Launch, Oct 18 | Jacqui Oakley Illustration & Hand-Lettering

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