The Sadaraka-Gardiner sisters Hinania (left), Reihanii and Vaihere, enjoy “Can you see what I see?” written by Nanette Lela’ulu. Photo: SUPPLIED/22063008
Artist Nanette Lela’ulu authored and published her very first book – a little book with a big message titled “Can you see what I see?”, sharing her inspiration and journey navigating through the uncharted waters of writing and publishing.
Of Samoan descent, Lela’ulu has lived on Rarotonga for 11 years, exhibiting her paintings on the island and overseas for 30 years.
has written poetry since an early age and had several stories which she started,
but, this book “Can you see what I see?” is the first she has finished and
taken all the way to print.
says people are often unable to see other people’s perspectives and understand
their experiences or feelings, and she wanted to explore that idea through a
concept of the book is that it is boundless and without gender or cultural
restrictions it is able to explore differences in a very subtle way, says
and explores through a lyrical narrative the power of listening, and concludes
that while our views may always differ, there are ways to see how others see.”
was inspired to write the children’s book when she assisted the late Paddy
Walker OBE (a former International Peace Ambassador and resident of Rarotonga)
with her last Peace Bird book.
She started writing the book just after her father sadly passed away five years ago.
“The first writing was incredibly lecturous,” says Lela’ulu. “Then one night several months later it came to me that it needed to rhyme and so I lay down and finished it that evening in one go, now there is a playful humour that supports the message.”
you see what I see?” is a collaboration between Lela’ulu and Chloe Marsters, an
Auckland-based artist of Cook Islands descent.
book is beautifully conversed between Lela’ulu’s words and Marsters’
Lela’ulu is an accomplished artist she wanted to find someone else to
illustrate the book, “because I wanted another perspective on my words”. She commissioned
Marsters to do the illustrations, a process that took another year.
love Chloe Marsters bold lines, there is a depth to the view that she takes
with her work,” says Lela’ulu.
that point Chloe hadn’t really explored colours as her main tool is her ink pen
so I decided to do the colouring for her illustrations, which meant I needed to
learn how to use photoshop on my computer.”
turned out to be a very slow process, taking her months to complete one
illustration “because I had no idea I could select entire layers so I was
painstakingly colouring each segment of her images bit by bit”.
Completing the colouring in
of the illustrations last year Lela’ulu then started the process of sending the
book to her designer friend Katy Yiakmis, who is an award winning book designer
for several books including Robert Oliver’s Me'a Kai cook book.
with Yiakmis, they completed the design look of “Can you see what I see?” last
September and sent it off to the printers.
her debut as an author, the book journey came with and without challenges.
spoken and written word have always been an important part of my paintings and
the exploration of meaning behind what I have tried to portray through any work,”
explains Lela’ulu. “So it wasn’t a large leap to start writing, in fact I find
writing so much more liberating than painting.”
is such a solitary process; I have loved working collaboratively with Chloe and
Katy. It’s been a learning and exciting process for me.
biggest challenges were the awareness that I wanted the message to be in the
book but not to feel condescending or arduous. I wanted it to be fun and more
like an ‘ahh’ moment when you get to it.”
trial was trying to learn photoshop, which she managed to achieve.
the task of communicating with the printers when she had no idea “about paper
weights, etc., so there was a lot of blindly walking and learning along the way”.
lot of these challenges are beyond an author’s experience, in that usually a
publisher would take care of the other parts of publishing a book. But because she
chose to publish through her ‘Bloody Mosquito Publishing’ company, it meant
learning to wear many hats, explains Lela’ulu.
has paintings in prominent collections, such as the Tribaou Cultural Centre in
New Caledonia, the Museum of Ethnology in Frankfurt, Germany, and portraits in
the James Wallace Collection in Auckland, New Zealand. She has also illustrated
several books for Huia Publishing, Little Island Press and Cengage Group.