Zoo City Bares - click for full-size

With 36 hours to go on the Zoo City Bares charity auction (16 inch tall one-of-a-kind handpainted art toys inspired by Lauren Beukes’ novel, Zoo City – go to www.bidorbuy.co.za and search for “Zoo City Bares” to bid now) we got Lauren to write a blog on how it came about:

I’ve got into a very bad habit as a writer in the last couple of years: doing cool side projects that are wa-aa-aay out of my jurisdiction as professional typist extraordinaire.

Both Moxyland and Zoo City have their own official soundtracks put together by me and HoneyB at African Dope (www.africandope.co.za), but both books also have their own distinctive toys used to raise money for amazing causes.

With Moxyland, my author friend Sarah Lotz and her mom Carol Walters set up a women’s collective called The Montagu Sew & Sews to make Moxy monster toys. We raised over R12 000 (about £1050) for the women who were all living below the breadline and they’ve since gone on to other projects. (The toy is still available by special order from booklounge@gmail.com)

With Zoo City I wanted to do something similar.

Inspired by my love of vinyl collectibles, I dreamed up a mad scheme to get shit-hot South African illustrators and designers to customise art toys inspired by the novel, auction them off and donate the proceeds to an appropriate charity.

Design company Am I Collective donated five of their gorgeous (and huge) vinyl “Bares” and we found six amazing illustrators to paint them any way they liked as long as it was somehow inspired by the book.

The artists were: Zoo City cover designer Joey Hi-Fi, Willeen le Roux, Carine Nguz & Bia van Deventer and Am I Collective’s Clem de Bruin and Elise Wessels

The results were gob-smackingly beautiful and, best of all, surprising. Icouldn’t have imagined the things the artists came up with from Elise Wessels’ African mask-inspired barn owl to Carine and Bia’s whimsical Borne Bare, Clem de Bruin’s gorilla-ish old man and totem owl to Joey Hi-Fi’s very creepy muti monster and Willeen le Roux’s whimsical dark-side/light-side Bi-Polar Bare complete with a sloth on its back.

I had the art toys, now I needed a suitable charity, one that somehow tied in with the book.

Zoo City is set in Hillbrow, that inner city slum that was once the glamour capital of Johannesburg’s suburbs. And while it’s about crime and magic and music and animal spirits, Zoo City is also very much about refugees and what they’ve come through, what they have to endure, particularly now in light of the threat of another spate of xenophobic attacks.

(For insight into the 2008 attacks, you should really, really read the Daily Maverick’s moving and devastating interview series here and here).

And then someone suggested The Suitcase Project and everything fell into place.

The Suitcase Project started in 2001 as a way of helping refugee children from war-torn African countries who had arrived in Johannesburg without parents, friends or family. Glynis Clacherty tried to help them deal with the trauma of their flight and arriving in a strange, sometimes hostile adoptive country, by getting them to decorate second-hand suitcases with their personal stories. It was turned into a book, The Suitcase Stories. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Suitcase-Stories-Refugee-Children-Identities/dp/191993099X.

It was perfect –using a creative approach decorating art toys to raise money for a project that helped kids cope with their trauma by decorating suitcases.

I’m hoping to raise around R10,000 (or £800) for The Suitcase Project – all proceeds will go to paying for school fees for the kids.

Best of all, it’s a totally democratic auction, open to everyone, wherever you are in the world as long as you have paypal (various shipping options are available). Bidding is in Rands, but you can calculate up-to-date currency conversions here: www.xe.com, but basically ZAR R100 is GBP £8.6 or US $13.8.

And if you want to check out the Bares in person, as it were, visit Bi-Polar Bare at Forbidden Planet Megastore in London, Nonnetjie Uil and Pretty Wise at Exclusive Books, Kloof Street in Cape Town and
Muti Monster and Borne are at Rhinestone Cowboy (www.rhinestonecowboy.co.za) in Johannesburg.

Alas, I have figured out one downside to this whole cool creative collaboration thing – the Bares are so damn awesome I might have to bid on them myself.

The Zoo City Bares Auction ends 11.45pm South African time (GMT + 2) Tuesday 10 August. (see www.worldtimezone.com)


* For more information about The Suitcase Project contact Sophiatown Community Counselling Services
(PBO 18/11/13/1278 028-326 NPO)
+27 11 673 1473 or email glynis@clacherty.co.za