Niki Daly is a South African author-illustrator whose picture books celebrate the imaginative powers of children and their magnificent everyday lives.
Daly first became involved in drawing by using pencil stubs handed down from an uncle who painted watercolour pictures. Daly travelled to London at the age of twenty-four in order to pursue a career in singing and song writing. However, economic difficulties ended his music career after two years, and Daly found work as a commercial artist, which eventually led to illustration for children’s books.
Notable about his style are his abilities to view the world from a child’s perspective and to see the world in a rainbow of shades, reflective of multicultural modern South Africa.
In books such as Not So Fast, Songololo, Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky, The Boy on the Beach, and Jamela’s Dress, Daly looks at the day-to-day interactions of the myths that shape black South African reality.
In 1980 Niki Daly and his family returned to South Africa after ten years living abroad. During his first years back in the country of his birth, Daly produced several traditional books for the very young.
When he returned to South Africa, the country was experiencing great unrest as a result of apartheid.
“I wrote and illustrated a number of books which reflected the lives of the children on the other side of the racial divide. In retrospect, I see these books (Not So Fast, Songololo, Charlie’s House, Papa Lucky’s Shadow, and All the Magic in the World) as half-way bridges between white and black children who live[d] separate and unequal lives determined by the appalling apartheid system. In order to do these books I ignored the myth propagated through apartheid and some political activists who said that there are differences between people.”
In the late 1980s Daly established Songololo Books, a children’s book imprint for David Philip Publishers in South Africa. As an editor he attempted to promote children’s literature for all South African children, and to this end tried to cultivate not only stories about black South Africans, but by them as well.
As a writer, editor, and provider of art workshops, Niki Daly has furthered the creation of a body of South African children’s literature inclusive of all races and ethnic groups.
His books are published locally and abroad and he has been shortlisted for the coveted Hans Christian Andersen Award, and most recently nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Award.
He lives with his wife, Jude, also an illustrator, in Mowbray, Cape Town.
Niki Daly’s Books Reviewed
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