With my swan illustration I took part in and won the 2017 campaign picture competition organized by Helsinki Book Fair, the largest book event in Finland. In the competition brief the vision for the project was to find an illustration that would be topical, insightful, capture attention and include books. The theme of the book fair in 2017 is Finland and that’s why I chose the whooper swan, the national bird of Finland, as my topic.
The whooper swan is featured in Finnish folklore and culture as an animal which connects the afterlife with the living creatures on earth. As the book fair introduces Finnish authors as well as the history of Finland, with my illustration I wanted to highlight the power of literature in building bridges between past and present and in fact, building up a whole national identity. The bird theme also points to freedom of speech which is a topical issue, also in Finland.
In addition, the swan refers to the popular fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. I feel that racism and xenophobia have been increasing globally and empathy is now needed more than ever. In the fairy tale the Ugly Duckling realises that he has grown into a swan when his wings have become strong and big. Then he also gets accepted for who he really is. In the illustration the wings of the swan are formed of a book. I think that literature has the ability to express different experiences of reality and that way improve empathy and understanding of those who are different from ourselves – literature has the power to turn an ugly duckling into a swan.