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Visual story-telling and human rights: A selection of graphic novels

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sequential art and visual story-telling have existed as a means of communication for thousands of years. The 30,000-year-old cave paintings of Chauvet-Pont-D’arc, France, are amongst the oldest examples of sequential art on record. They tell us stories about the animals around which people living at that time centred their existence, and give us a glimpse into an otherwise long forgotten past.

Drawings of animals. Cave paintings of Chauvet-Pont-D’arc, France

 

Comics and Graphic Novels

Today, sequential art takes many forms, comics being amongst the most popular. There are many comic artists working today who choose to tell stories that deal in some way with human rights issues and struggles past and present. Here are a few examples of graphic novels that the Museum will be including in its library collection:

Chester Brown’s Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography examines the life of 19th century Métis leader, Louis Riel, his struggle to win rights for his people, and the events that lead to the founding of the Province of Manitoba.

Louis Riel cover

Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown

Brown, Chester. 2003. Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly Publications.

 

Claudia Dávila’s Luz Sees the Light is a contemporary tale of 12-year-old Luz and her friends pushing themselves to action, and coming together to make a difference for the better in their neighborhood and, they hope, the world.

Luz Sees the Light cover

Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Dávila

Dávila, Claudia. 2011. Luz Sees the Light. Toronto: Kids Can Press.

 

In Guy Delisle’s Chroniques de Jérusalem we see the author moving with his family to Jerusalem so his wife can work for an NGO. He details the daily lives of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish people that live and work together in the city and region. 

Chroniques de Jerusalem cover

Chroniques de Jérusalem by Guy Delisle - ©Guy Delcourt Productions - 2011

Delisle, Guy. 2011. Chroniques de jérusalem. Paris: Editions Delcourt.

 

David Lester’s The Listener takes the reader into pre-WWII Germany where in 1933, the last democratic election prior to Adolph Hitler’s rise to power is taking place.

The Listener cover

The Listerner by David Lester

Lester, David. The Listener. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing. 

 

In Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, we follow the author through childhood in pre-revolutionary Iran, her adolescence abroad and then her eventual return to Iran as an adult. Hers is a personal story shaped by major historical events whose impacts are still felt to this day.

Persepolis cover

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Satrapi, Marjane. 2007. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon

 

Art Spiegleman’s Maus presents the author’s father’s story of living through and surviving the Holocaust, and the difficult and fractured relationship shared by father and son.

Complete Maus

The Complete Maus cover by Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman, Art. 1996. The Complete Maus. New York: Pantheon

 

These are just a few examples of the many graphic novels that deal in some way with human rights issues. They all demonstrate how the comics medium can be used to convey what are sometimes difficult and challenging stories and ideas, and they speak well to the CMHRs mandate in helping to enhance the public's understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue.

 

More information

- The Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D'Arc website

- Chester Brown’s Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography on the Publisher's website

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- Claudia Dávila’s Luz Sees the Light on the Publisher's website

Guy Delisle’s Chroniques de Jérusalem on the Author's website

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David Lester’s The Listener on the Author's website

Majane Satrapi’s Persepolis on the Publisher's website

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-  Art Spiegleman’s Maus on the Publisher's website

 

Citations

Brown, Chester. 2003. Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly Publications.

Dávila, Claudia. 2011. Luz Sees the Light. Toronto: Kids Can Press.

Delisle, Guy. 2011. Chroniques de jérusalem. Paris: Editions Delcourt.

Lester, David. The Listener. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

Satrapi, Marjane. 2007. The Complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon

Spiegelman, Art. 1996. The Complete Maus. New York: Pantheon

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