Comics, Coca-Cola and Childhood Memories

Hamish Vigne Christie Paul – better known to his many fans as Korky was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1951, one of seven children.

At an early age he was reading comic books and in his words, scribbling cartoons’. Nowadays, his scribbles bring smiles to the faces of the children, thanks to the world of fantasy evoked by his unforgettable illustrations.

Korky went to art school in Durban and from there travelled to Greece. He also spent time in California before ending up in the city of the dreaming spires.

So, from his experiences in three continents, what would he choose in answer to the question If you were shipwrecked on a desert island which antique, work of art or antiquarian book, would you like to be washed up on the beach – and why?

“As a child I was wild about American comics by Stan the Man’ Lee; Marvel’s Spiderman and DC’s Batman. I loved the illustrations and they inspired me to draw.

“My mother encouraged me to read but she was happy whether it was comics or books, as long as I read. I was half in love with all things American. Coca-Cola is an American icon and I like it so have collected coke bottles. The most unusual one was bought as an airport road souvenir in Tanzania and is carved from ebony.

“Wherever we go, my wife Susan and I look for interesting rocks and stones. Susan turns some into jewellery and I wear one around my neck. I guess that would be with me anyway and I could spend time searching for new ones on the desert island, so I think I shall leave my collections behind.

“I enjoyed a wild and privileged childhood in the African Bushveldt. My father bought a two-tone Chevrolet Impala. The body was grey but the roof, bonnet, bumper and wheel hubs were white and the leather upholstery was red. I was fascinated by the indicators which winked like eyes.

“My mother hated it because it was so flash but it was my father’s pride and joy. I found a die-cast model of it in the Summertown Oxfam Shop (pictured) and I am tempted to take that. It evokes memories of happy times and some amusing ones. Lots of us piled in it to go to the swimming galas, but it did rather rock n’ roll – one boy couldn’t come with us because riding in the car made him sick.”

On a visit to South Africa, my wife Susan bought me a present of a model sewing machine made from old wire. It reminds me of the Shona people who were gifted at recycling waste material.

“I have a hand-made Heath Robinson construction barbeque I would love on the island, but it is rather heavy. It is made from a recycled water tank and has unique features.

“I could even use my favourite Jamie Oliver frying pan on it because I love to cook. I don’t think that is quite what you have in mind so maybe I should choose a painting by Susan or by my grandmother.

“As she didn’t own a camera, she sketched her children, the farm and the Bushmen of the Kalahari. She was a big influence on me and gave me her watercolours, brushes and her famous 303′ drawing nibs.

Since I can only take one thing, I think it has to be a children’s illustrated book because they loom so large in my life. There is one that caught my imagination as a child and has inspired me ever since. It is Struwwelpeter by Dr Heinrich Hoffman. It was first published in English in 1848 and called Shock-headed Peter. Every fortnight my mother took me to the library and it is a habit I have never lost. I was amazed by this book and its illustrations and borrowed it many times. It is anything but politically correct. As you can see from this extract, it is really quite gruesome.

The door flew open and in he ran The great, red- legged scissor-man Oh children see the tailors come And caught out little suck-a -thumb.

Snip! Snip! Snip! The scissors go And Conrad cries out -Oh! Oh! Oh!

Snip Snap Snip! They go so fast, That both his thumbs are off at last.

On another page three yobbos who taunt a black boy get dunked in a large inkwell. Growing up in Southern Africa I knew about racism. I read this book so many times, I was given a brightly coloured thirties edition as a present. Nowadays, I teach illustration at Cheney School on Tuesdays. One evening I noticed a damaged nineteenth century version in a box of books given to the school for sale or use. I asked if I could buy it. The colours in this one are more pastel and the paper finer. This is the version I will take to the desert island. I would never get bored with it and I could grumble to myself about the crazy restrictions in children’s publishing today. I can’t remember being tempted to cut off any thumbs because I read Struwwelpeter. So I’ll be able to let off lots of emotions, evoke memories and marvel at the pictures.

By |May 30th, 2008|Categories: Oxford Castaways|Comments Off on Comics, Coca-Cola and Childhood Memories