Illustrator and Designer Martin D Page

This special project came about after Martin had moved to Te Araroa with Tania to have their son Noah back in 2003. Tania was helping her good friend Lawyer Regina Rudland present a datashow for the Wai262 claim, and met the author Keri Kaa who was giving evidence on behalf of Ngati Porou. After many discussions around the publishing of Ngati Porou stories, a group of interested people came together to support the publishing of original material. Through that process, Taka Ki Ro Wai was born and Martin and Tania became the principal project team to work with the authors vision for publishing in te reo.

Martin’s approach to creating the book was directly connected to the raising of his young son. Introducing Noah to books meant reading solidly through the children’s book section of the HB Williams Memorial Library in Gisborne. In going through that process, Martin realised he had a passion for books. Noah’s childhood reading consisted of historical classics mixed with the best of contemporary children’s literature. Martin admits to scrutinising every book in terms of its visual presentation, quality of story, the themes presented and the way in which a book engaged with children. In this way he did a kind of apprenticeship, which he then applied to the project.

A first time illustrator and a visual communicator, Martin considers himself a typographer first and foremost. Presented with the opportunity to not only design a book, but to illustrate it as well, he was both excited and daunted. Taka Ki Ro Wai presented Martin with a great story, supported by a rich visual language to draw upon. However, in doing so he also took on the added challenge of creating a first book in a language foreign to his own. “As a typographer that is quite a daunting prospect. A typographer works with words. How could I respond to something that was written in a language I couldn’t understand? I read things, I read them visually, I read them conceptually. I read the experience of it. I read and then I edit.” In understanding the intent of the author with respect to the language, Martin has chosen to highlight the language. “I’ve tried to make the most of the language from a typographic viewpoint, which I hope serves to support the rhythm of the authors writing.”

The visual style is designed to reflect the very down-to-earth way of people living in the Tairawhiti. The setting is earthy, it takes place following a storm. The book also reflects Martin’s own personal philosophy in that it is not about overstimulating a child’s senses. It has a calmness to it. “I was looking to reflect the beauty of that region. It is an expression of my love for a unique and special part of the world.”

Because it is a true story, the book also includes photographs of real people and places. The intent was for Taka Ki Ro Wai to have a cinematic feel. One of the references for the illustrative style was taken from storyboards for film, and so the presentation of photos at times is similarly widescreen. The book itself could be seen as a storyboard study. Taka Ki Ro Wai is a book of features, it introduces you to the people, gives you a glimpse into the environment, and it has a glossary. Each part is designed to sustain the readers interest. It is a labour of love, both for the people and the place.

“I felt like I connected with the author, with her intention to express a sense of the magic that exists around us if we care to take a look.”