Ruby Spark
El Lector – a short story

  • 2020

    Submission # 96

  • Output

    Student – Ākonga

  • Kaupapa

    Identity – People & Culture

    Identity – Place

  • Location

    Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau

Project Overview:
I have always been interested in the intersection between design and creative writing, how these two things that I feel a deep passion for are intertwined. I study creative writing this year, the endpoint of my minor, the endpoint of my major and my degree as a whole, all coinciding. In this project, I wanted to pull all of the threads of my university experience together, and create something to hold, that I hold very dear. This final project is shaped by my semester in Mexico, the harshness of the contrast between my life here and life there, the beauty in their language, culture and length of history. Shaped by my desire to tell a story, to create a world outside of what I know, and by my want to understand the socio-cultural context of the written word and the design that surrounds it.

This publication ‘El Lector’/ ‘The reader’ holds a self-authored short story, set in 1930’s pre-revolutionary Cuba. Presented in both the English and Spanish languages, my mother tongue and the mother tongue of the characters in my story. Scattered throughout this narrative are newspaper articles from Cuban and New Zealand publications of the 1930s alongside revolutionary poems and paintings from Latin American Artists of the same era. These found materials influenced and add historical depth to the fictional story they sit alongside. Footnotes translating Cuban slang and expanding upon artists' and poets' works emphasis the research-led approach and capture the nuance of this cultural revolution. The bilingual form and narrative in this publication are driven by a desire to connect with the characters, to their wider socio-political designed world and to culture and language outside of my own. This need to immerse myself as the author, into the world of the characters is present in the hand-painted illustrations that accompany the revolutionary paintings. Through understanding the style and motif of artists work I was better able to situate this story in the colour, texture and vibrancy of the Latin American revolution.

The duality of publication is visible in the two points of entry. The stories flipped upon themself and divided in the centre by a map of Cuba Florida straight. Creating a visual metaphor of the separation of belief, idea and political powers of America and its small island neighbour. But also emphasizing the physical proximity between these two worlds, that many Cubans learnt to live between. The incorporation of New Zealand newspaper articles contextualizes my identity as the author and contrasts the socio-political situations of these two colonized island nations.

This publication unpacks translation as a tool in both literature and design. Understanding the importance of the book as a historical and cultural marker in time. This publication is research-led, exploring themes of self-publishing, the book as a cultural device, book cover design and design outside of a western context. This project allowed me to dive deeper into the publishing world of New Zealand and the printed world of my characters in 1930s Cuba.

Archiver’s Response:

"Beautiful work of storytelling, investigating another culture in the light of one's own identity."

"This feels like a book that wants to be explored, many times, in different directions. A fascinating convergence of writing, illustration, language, culture and place."

"Some great connections created between writing and design. Would love to have seen more!"

Credits & Collaborators:
Editor - Penelope Ceron Castillo
Editor - Pam Spark
Teacher/Tutor - Katie Kerr
Photographer - Nina van Lier

Ruby Main
Archive Submission

More by
Ruby Spark