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LITHUANIAN ARTISTS – THE STARS OF THE 2019 BOLOGNA CHILDREN’S BOOK FAIR

Lietuvos kultūros institutas

For the tenth time, the Lithuanian Culture Institute represented Lithuanian illustrators and writers at the most important children’s book fair in the world in Bologna. Meeting foreign publishers and admirers of their work on 1-4 April were the illustrator and writer Kęstutis Kasparavičius, the US writer of Lithuanian origins Rūta Šepetys, and emerging children’s authors Monika Vaicenavičienė and Rasa Jančiauskaitė. The exhibition “Les Maîtres de l’Imaginaire“ which opened on the eve of the fair included illustrations by the painter Stasys Eidrigevičius.

“Regular participation of the Lithuanian authors of children’s books at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair helped to form a worldwide recognisable face of Lithuanian illustrations and children’s literature and attract attention to the strong school of illustration that exists in Lithuania and its new talents. Each year, artists from our country are invited to participate in international festivals, share their professional experience within creative workshops, illustrate the world classics; foreign publishers who visit our country’s stand always inquire about works by those artists”, shared the Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute Aušrinė Žilinskienė.

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair named the writer R. Šepetys and the illustrator and writer K. Kasparavičius as two of the 10 most important guests. On 1 April, those attending the fair were able to attend a special discussion between the recipient of Carnegie Medal for children’s fiction R. Šepetys and the renowned British writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn under the title „Seeking Lost Stories: Historical Fiction for Children and Young Adults“ in which they explored the question of why it is important to look for forgotten historical events and retell them.

K. Kasparavičius never has quiet time at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair – the fans stop the artist in hallways, ask to have a photo taken together or to give an autograph; they search for his books at the Lithuanian stand. „Attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and participating in the Bologna illustrators’ exhibition really gives me a lot”, said K. Kasparavičius with a smile. “This fair gave start not only to mine but also to other Lithuanian illustrators’ international career. Lithuanian illustrators have a really strong presence here, especially following the beautiful and successful presentation in 2011 when Lithuania was the guest of honour at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The emergence of our new stars of illustration in the past few years is undeniably related to our active participation in this fair.“

On 2 April, K. Kasparavičius participated in a conversation with the prominent Italian researcher of children’s literature and illustration history Walter Fochesato. This year, the author of children’s books, which appeared in 27 languages, also had a message for the children of the world – „Books help us slow down”. The poster and the letter he created for the International Children’s Book Day were revealed at the annual IBBY press conference on 1 April.

The author of the picture book “What Is a River?” which received worldwide success M. Vaicenavičienė had an intense events schedule in Bologna. The Italian publication of “What Is a River?” was launched in the bookshop “Trame” on the eve of the fair. The event featured the author, the representatives of the publishing house “Topipittori” Paolo Cantona and Giovanna Zoboli and Head of Programmes and Projects at the Lithuanian Culture Institute Rūta Nanartavičiūtė. On 2 April, M. Vaicenavičienė held a creative workshop within the book fair in which she presented her book to professional audiences and spoke about research and content structuring methods she uses when creating visual narratives for non-fiction. The illustrator also led two creative workshops in Bologna city.

This year, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair organised as many as 12 exhibitions, the most important of which is the illustrators’ competition exhibition. The competition received 2901 entries out of which an international jury has selected works by 76 artists for the exhibition which has been touring the world’s museums, galleries and libraries. Exhibited among them are also illustrations by the recipient of the First Prize at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, R. Jančiauskaitė, which she created for Marius Marcinkevičius’ book „Little Poems for the Little Ones“.

At the invitation by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, this year’s book fair was also attended by the emerging illustrator Vilija Kvieskaitė. The talented artist is open about her ambitions and is intending to submit her picture book to the Silent Book exhibition in 2020. Since 2014, so far six artists were able to benefit from the opportunity for emerging illustrators to visit the Bologna Children’s Book Fair facilitated by the Lithuanian Culture Institute. The fair provided inspiration for then still emerging illustrators and book artists Karolis Strautniekas, Aušra Kiudulaitė, Tomas S. Butkus, Kotryna Zylė, Lina Itagaki and R. Jančiauskaitė.

At the Lithuanian national stand, the Lithuanian Culture Institute also introduced the visitors of the fair to unique children’s books by Lithuanian authors that received acclaim in various competitions around the world. The following three publishing houses also presented their books at the stand: “Aukso žuvys”, “Tikra knyga” and “Verslas ar menas”.

Illustrations by S. Eidrigevičius are showcased as part of the exhibition “Les Maîtres de l’Imaginaire“ held at the Bologna town hall from 31 March until 28 April. The exhibition is curated by Etienne Delessert, the renowned philanthropist and collector who established the foundation “Les Maîtres de l’Imaginaire“ in Lozanne which became an important meeting place of children’s literature artist, critics and researchers, as well as the depository of original works by the most prominent illustrators in the world.