Dr. Wale Ajao shares his inspiration for the illustration in Adunni Dares to Dream

“Adunni Dares to Dream” is a story about a young girl who grew up poor in the village in a time when expectations were different for girls than from boys. Girls were (and in many places still are) expected to help in the home or on the farm and learn to become a mother and homemaker someday. They simply were not a priority when it came to formal education. It was rare for girls to develop a determination to break those gender barriers, even more so for a girl in a poor family. This is what makes Adunni’s journey very compelling.

This is my first time illustrating a book for this age range so, naturally, I assumed the book would have to be colorful, clear/clean/crisp, and easy for a child to digest what’s going on.

In hindsight, I may have been wrong but that was the summary of my strategy.

I harked back to my college days when I was in charge of the art department in our student fellowship. We used to make a lot of posters using cardboard cutouts. I’d make a sketch of the illustration and then figure out what colors of cardboard we would use, and then cut them accordingly.

Using Adobe Illustrator to digitally make the basic shapes really brings back those memories. Each illustration was to look as if it was made out of cardboard cutouts but I couldn’t resist adding a little bit of realism (a shadow here, a gradient there, and a bevel here) which I believe gives it a unique look even if that strict cardboard look is missing (meh…maybe on my next book).

Again, the idea was to use simple shapes with fine gradient colors and a hint of caricature here and there. I hoped the real kicker would be the use of patterns. Nigerian attire is very rich with patterns and instead of highly detailed backgrounds, we have patterns. Some of the patterns in the attires are based on real cloth patterns. If you look at the photo of young adult Adunni, you will see that the pattern on her dress was applied to the illustration of Adunni. I hope this blends well with the touching story Taiwo wrote and the decision to include some of the original language.

Overall it’s been an eye-opening collaborative experience all the way. And we are proud to announce the birth of this book which is our first-born baby as it were. Like a real baby, it takes a village to raise it and this book has been no exception.

We hope you love it…er…her, and she grows into the phenomenon that the inspiration for her truly is. We’ve seen that phenomenal inspiration in action and we hope you do to.

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