INTERVIEW: Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Sally Morgan
Ezekiel Kwaymullina said My Country was inspired by his Nana and Gran, who passed on their love of country to him. The book has become a family affair with Ezekiel’s mother, internationally acclaimed artist Sally Morgan, creating the illustrations.
Your book describes a child’s experience of nature that feels very unhurried. Why did you choose to create this feeling?
EK: That was my experience as a child. I’d play outside for hours and just absorb the country around me and become lost in it.
Each spread in the book describes an experience in country. Can you tell us about one of your own memories in country?
EK: I was out in the Pilbara once with one of my Nans and our car broke down. I remember Nan walking along the riverbed, getting ready to make a soak in case we needed water because it was way out in the middle of nowhere. The situation we were stuck in was probably potentially worrying, but I was a kid at the time I found it really fun!
Accompanying the child in every illustration are small watchful figures. Can you tell us about their significance?
SM: These figures are the spirits in country who watch over you and keep you safe.
Do you think children can relate to ideas like ‘swimming’ in the moonlight’s tide?
EK: In the Pilbara, because there is less pollution and no light from the city, the night sky seems far closer and is much clearer. When the moon is full you feel literally bathed in its light, especially if you are a young child.
The book takes us on a journey from morning to night. Are there any bedtime stories that you loved as a child?
EK: One of my favourites was Where the Wild Things Are written by Maurice Sendak.
Visibly, there are more curves than angles in My Country. Does working with curves feel different to working with angles?
SM: When you are in the bush there are no sharp lines, but there are lots of curves and other softer shapes, so this is how I like to illustrate things. The illustrations I do are usually guided by what feels right for the story I am designing for at the time.
What’s the hardest part about creating a children’s book?
EK: Writing an interesting story that can keep a child’s attention in only a small amount of words. For My Country I deliberately tried to give the text a strong rhythm. Great text will win you a child’s interest. Great illustrations will earn you their attention. Both combined will captivate a child’s imagination.
What current or future writing projects are you working on?
EK: The most exciting for me is The Not-So-Goblin Boy, which is a novel for teenagers which will be published in September 2011. It’s a fantasy book with a lot of humour and action and hopefully will be a fun read.