From page to canvas: Broken Monsters charity art show

South African author Lauren Beukes is helping to promote a culture of reading in South Africa. The proceeds from her latest charity art show are going to the children’s literary organisation, Book Dash. Pages from her book, Broken Monsters, were turned into creative designs and sold for R1 500 each.

Image description Pages of Lauren Beukes’ book Broken Monsters were turned into pieces of art to raise money for a children’s literary organisation, Book Dash. (Image: Supplied)

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Priya Pitamber

South African science fiction and fantasy writer Lauren Beukes has strong opinions about reading. “It should be available to everyone,” she wrote on her website.

And Beukes is trying to do just that with her latest charity art show. Entitled Broken Monsters Charity Art Show, “proceeds will go to a kids literary non-governmental organisation, Book Dash with over a hundred stellar South African artists creating an original work on a page ripped out of my novel, Broken Monsters“.

Beukes has partnered with curator Jacki Lang on the project, as well as chicken restaurant chain Nandos. Each unique art creation was sold for R1 500, only one per person, and the money will enable Book Dash to print books for children across South Africa, in the country’s major languages.

“Reading is also about understanding the world and who we are in it,” she continued. “Stories allow us to live other lives, to spend time in someone else’s head, to feel empathy.”

She recently gave a Tedx talk about stories being powerful, how they allow people to be more than they are, “allowing us to imagine other people and other lives”.

With the charity show, she said a story was able to make a difference in reality, because every art work sold meant Book Dash could print 150 books for children who needed them. “It’s a story being turned into art being turned back into stories (and art) in the form of kid’s picture books,” Beukes mused.

Group effort

Beukes described Lang as an old friend, someone who always put together interesting art shows.

Speaking of the collaboration on the Broken Monsters Charity Art Show, Beukes said: “She’d just returned from London and I wanted to go bigger and more ambitious with The Shining Girls Art Show because I’d had such success with a novel and I wanted to share the spotlight and use it to do some good in the world.”

Book Dash did such good work because it created what she called “beautiful original South African picture books with amazing local artists and writers in several different languages that they distribute free through local literacy organisations and also free on their website for anyone to print out”, Beukes said.

“They really care about the power of story to open doors in our heads and in the worlds and their dream is for every child to own 100 books of their own by the time they’re five years old.” Beukes said it tied in beautifully with the theme of her book.

Find out more about Book Dash:

As for Nando’s, Lang approached the chicken restaurant chain because it had already shown commitment to local art. “They are known for dipping their wings in playful and unusual marketing,” Beukes said.

Broken Monsters image Artists created unique pieces of art for the Broken Monsters Charity Art Show. (Image: Supplied)

Broken Monsters image Each piece of art was sold for R1 500 and all proceeds went to charity. (Image: Supplied)

Not the first

Beukes has used her books previously for good causes.

“The stuffed toy Moxy monsters raised R15 000 for a women’s project in Montagu, the Zoo City Art Bares raised R18 000 for the Suitcase Project in Hillbrow,” she explained.

“We auctioned off a sloth scarf for Khulisa, which works with offenders and ex-offenders and we levelled up when I brought ace curator Jacki Lang on board and The Shining Girls Charity Art Show raised R100 000 for Rape Crisis.

Broken Monsters

When her novel Broken Monsters was published in 2014, there was talk about creating an art show for a children’s literary organisation. “But I was on a hectic international tour schedule, so the timing just didn’t work out,” Beukes recalled. “But we picked up on it this year.”

She explained Broken Monsters was chosen because “it’s my novel and my passion project”.

From Cape Town to Joburg

The first exhibition was held in Cape Town on 12 November; Beukes described it as “so great”. “I was blown away with the art – and the sheer range of styles and mediums and interpretations,” she said.

The queue, she said, went around the block and the show raised over R200 000, double the amount raised during The Shining Girls show.

Lang shared a similar sentiment. “I was so overwhelmed with the beautiful and generous responses from our artists,” she said. “They gave so much of their time, input, creativity and resources and each and every artwork was unique.”

Lang said it was a magic recipe: artwork came from many sought-after artists and emerging talent; it was created specifically for the event; and it was for a great cause. “I am so grateful to everyone that came and everyone that took part.”

Their collaboration shows in Joburg for the first time on 26 November and they have high hopes for it. “The work is all new work – in most cases our artists donated two pieces – one for Cape Town and one for Joburg – so it’s going to be a whole new show,” Lang said.

The culture of reading

“Reading statistics report that only 14% of the South African population are active book readers, and a mere 5% of parents read to their children and over half of South African households (51%) do not have a single leisure reading book,” said Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the deputy minister of arts and culture at the launch of National Book Week in September.

“Hence we deemed it fit that we continue to strengthen our partnership with the South African Book Development Council as we instil a culture of reading, with a strong focus on promoting indigenous languages, local authors as well as library awareness and access,” Mabudafhasi said.

It was through reading that South Africans would continue to ensure that their diversity and unique heritage united them as a nation. “Reading will take us on a journey to discover who are we as a people and embrace our diversity.”