Portrait Judith Vanistendael
© Ali Ghandtschi

Guest 2012, 2014.


Kafka für Afrikaner
Sofie und der schwarze Mann
Berlin, 2011
[Ü: Andrea Kluitmann]

Toen David zijn stem verloor
Oog & Blik / De Bezige Bij
Amsterdam, 2012

Een voettocht naar Santiago de Compostella
De Bezige Bij
Amsterdam, 2012

Lucille Kabaal
[Mit Conz]
Oog & Blik / De Bezige Bij
Amsterdam, 2012


Judith Vanistendael [ Belgium ]

Judith Vanistendael was born in 1974 in the Flemish town Leuven. She studied art in Berlin, Ghent and Seville and also attended the prestigious Sint-Lukas comic school in Brussels, where she now works as a lecturer.

She illustrated children’s books and wrote a number of short comics before presenting her two-part debut »De Maagd en de Neger« (2007; En. »Dance by the Light of the Moon«, 2010) at the same time as her university thesis. In it Vanistendael describes an autobiographical love story between the Belgian Sofie and Abou, a political refugee from Togo. In simple black and white drawings and pointedly ironic dialogue she depicts the prejudice and seemingly Kafkaesque bureaucracy with which the young couple are faced. Vanistendael’s father, the novelist Geert Van Istendael, had already used the actual events of the story in a narrative. In an interview she said that the comic was, in part, an attempt to reclaim her own history. What distinguishes this personal, if nonetheless decidedly fictionalised account of what transpired, is the playful ease with which she discusses the existential problems of affecting the relationship, in particular the harassment of asylum policy and the threat of deportation. For this extraordinary and moving first novel the Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême, the most important European forum celebrating image and text as united art form, nominated for her for its Grand Prix in 2008/2009. The Dutch newspaper »Volkskrant« has compared her work to that of the American comic book artist Craig Thompson. Her recently published volume »Toen David zijn stem verloor« (2012; En »When David lost his voice«) is a touching family portrait, in which the eponymous protagonist is diagnosed with cancer and given little chance of survival. Once again the book was enthusiastically received by international critics. The »Guardian« wrote that it was, »a book full of unexpected consolations and a valuable addition to the canon of graphic jewels«. In contrast to its predecessor, Vanistendael has illustrated the story in colour, the night scenes are particularly nuanced. Individual and realistic, Vanistendael proves that the medium of the graphic novel is in no way inferior to other narrative art forms in the representation of complex emotions.

In addition to her own graphic stories Vanistendael has worked with writer Michael de Cock on the multi-volume children’s book series, »Rosie and Moussa«: »In simple language and using illustrations that succeed in capturing moments in time, the authors tell the story of Rosie and Moussa’s ascendency and their way back which is filled with obstacles. A wonderfully quiet story« (»Die Zeit«). Vanistendael lives in Brussels.