Interview with Isis Rodríguez, author of the Niñaji comic
By Jade Arroyo
Isis Rodriguez (2003 Individual Arts Commission Grant of San Francisco; 2006 Media Arts Awards for The Reawakening animation short, San Jose, CA, 2011 Guest Cartoonist for the syndicated American comic Baldo) is a comic book artist, whose most recent project is Niñaji (published independently in 2012), a bilingual comic which is inspired by the myth of the Oaxaca princess Donaji. Isis will have an exhibition at La Biblioteca on February 8 and present a couple of lectures about Niñaji. For more information you can visit facebookcom/ninajicomic or email Isis at email@example.com
Jade Arroyo: Tell us a little about the history of Niñaji.
Isis Rodríguez: A little Zapotec princess is reborn in our modern world. The original legend in Oaxaca tells that the princess Donaji was decapitated as the outcome of a conflict between two groups (Zapotecs and Mixtecas) over the ruling of Montalban, and dates from 1500. We called the resurrected princess Niñaji. What kind of life she would have today? The princess makes friends with several other characters and goes through daily experiences. This unique group of friends takes us along a fun, cultural and educative journey.
JA: Why did you pick comics and what is its importance as an art form?
IR: There are lot of comics that are about violence. What makes our comic very special is the fact that it is spiritually based, from an indigenous perspective. To embrace your identity and your roots: this is a beautiful diverse place. It is about how to live your life in the most peaceful and happy way. To ask the kids what is your dream and how do you get it? We asked kids “Who is your superhero?” and none of them said Batman, Superman or Sponge Bob,. They would say: my mother, my father, my big brother or my neighbor. In Mexico, superheroes are everyday people. How people deal and overcome these huge problems.
JA: How do you want to impact socially and culturally?
IR: We are becoming a global world. It is important to show a wide spectrum of colors, because we are a colorful place. Niñaji began three years ago, we decided to make a comic because here in Mexico comics have disappeared. Elsewhere in the world comics are very strong, and we note that the problems in schools for writing and reading are rising. The level of illiteracy is rising. When I was little I did not like reading, so we chose the comic as an intellectual movement for the young, to arouse curiosity for reading.
JA: Why is it bilingual?
IR: For one thing, if you’re a bilingual person it just gives you that much more opportunity. It opens a new world of knowledge and gives you an edge, to achieve more.
JA: What of your collaboration with La Biblioteca?
IR: I’m donating an image to promote the children’s painting classes. Also I have two lectures: “The Unsung Superheroes of Mexico,”on February 5 at 5pm, to introduce the 11 characters of Niñaji and what they’re about. The everyday superheroes, who are they? Then on February 8 I’m having an art opening showcasing original watercolors and sketches of Niñaji comics, Valentine gift cards and other surprises (I’m not telling, you have to come).
JA: What are your plans and projects?
IR: We hope to turn this comic book into a monthly magazine, 24 pages long with half of those pages comics and the other half important information for kids: a therapy section with letters written by real kids, health and sport, nutrition, how to care for mother earth, art and culture, history. The magazine’s name is Niñaji y su Vida Colorida. We hope the schools will allow us to sell this magazine at their libraries and also at the Tienda of La Biblioteca. We hope to keep the magazine affordable for kids, around 15-20 pesos. We’re keeping it bilingual. Also, each issue of the comic will become a chapter of a graphic book we’re working on. We are looking for sponsor for the comic. You can contact me at my e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 121-0329 or thru Niñaji Comic Facebook page.