Released in 2009, Elephabet, is a treasure trove of advice on life from the deepest mind of one of the masters of naive paintings; Yusof Gajah.
Besides his words of wisdom, what made Yusof Gajah a force of nature is his complex elephant art that is morphed in an abstract way in relation to humans.
Yusof Gajah has a deep and abiding love for children’s books and working with children. While a busy artist, he has managed to write and illustrate a number of books for children and have won the National Book Council Award for best picture book and the Noma Concours (ACCU) award for best illustrations. His popular picture book, ‘The Real Elephant’ was first published in Malay and has been translated into Japanese. Its enduring qualities have enabled an English publication in 2010.
I sieved through Yusof Gajah’s Elephabet for some of his life’s philosophy; Common Sense, Knowledge, Respect; and try to interpret/discuss the juxtaposition of his advice and illustration that can make sense to us; or at least to me personally. But I will be sure to compare his own interpretation and mine if I see him and update this review.
Yusof Gajah on Common Sense: “It is a paradox that we have access to so much information today and yet lose sight of common sense. Common sense is the best source of guidance I know.”
In the C Elephabet, there’s an image of a cup. My interpretation: the cup could be half empty or half full. This is a common expression, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty). When you hear/read something (information), make sure it makes good sense, and then try it. If it works, use it. If it doesn’t, abandon it. COMMON SENSE.
Yusof Gajah on Knowledge: “The beginning of knowledge is when we discover something we do not understand. This makes us search for understanding and the knowledge gained empowers us.”
In the K Elephabet, there’s a kite and hands images. My interpretation: Grasping a learning moment is a lot like flying a kite. Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with purpose to uncover unknown facts about the nature of lightning and electricity; in other words—he flew it to gain KNOWLEDGE.
Yusof Gajah on Respect: “If elephants can respect each other then why can’t human? So, if you want to be respected, look at yourself for reasons why you would not respect yourself.”
In the R Elephabet, there’s an image of a rainbow. My interpretation: It is the unity of multiple colours that creates a rainbow. In relation to humans, people come from different cultures and religions and RESPECTing those differences can lead to unity.
The rest of the other Elephabet I leave for you to interpret. You can get this interesting art book for RM40 at Kinokuniya, MPH, Silverfish Bookstore and Scallywags Bookshop, Bangsar Puteri.
Overall, it was a pure joy to read this book. It inspires me a lot to wake up from slumber and make some books again. I am now up and about and already on the first stage of creating my next picture book; write a storyline. I end with a quote by Yusof Gajah on Inspiration:
“It’s wonderful to be inspired but one can’t always wait for inspiration to come before starting something. Work on what you want to do and develop it. Many times, inspiration does not generate action but action may generate inspiration.” ~ Yusof Gajah.
Description of book:
Author/Illustrator: Yusof Gajah
Cover: Soft cover
Category: Art Book
Suitable age: 12 and above