LIBERTY — A Kansas City woman now living in Kenya teamed up with the first female editorial cartoonist in east and central Africa to publish a graphic novel that is launching in Kansas City this month.
Kathryn Toure joined students at Liberty and Liberty North high schools with illustrator Celeste Wamiru Friday and Monday, Oct. 11 and 14, to promote “Mary on the Move.”
The duo made several October appearances throughout the Kansas City area. Toure, being from the area, helped plan this trip through Liberty schools, Liberty High School graphic design teacher Andi Morris said.
Toure knows Steve Person, the graphic design teacher at Liberty North High School through the Garrison School Cultural Center. A little over a month ago, Toure reached out to Person and offered to visit his graphic design students during her and Wamiru’s trip to Kansas City.
Person offered the same opportunity to Morris’ students.
“I was definitely interested,” Morris said.
During the presentation, Kenya native Wamiru explained how graphic novels were an important part of her childhood, ultimately steering her passion to graphic storytelling. Wamiru showed students the difference in style of graphic novels in Africa compared to those found in the United States, featuring some of her previous works.
“What I gained from Celeste Wamiru’s visit was some new insight on what the graphic design and art world is like outside of a school environment,” junior Sophia Moore said. “I plan on going into the graphic design field, so I will be applying her tips and advice to my everyday routine. Small things like practicing every day and getting into certain habits will definitely help me in the future.”
Toure’s latest novel, “Mary on the Move,” is a tribute to her mother, Mary Olden Tajchman, a resident of Norterre in Liberty, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. The 60-page book grew out of Toure’s discovery of her mother’s wit and of Wamiru’s trip to Kansas City to meet Tajchman and the characters around her.
Wamiru had many laugh-out-loud moments in getting to know Tajchman, a release states, and learning about her life as an American senior citizen. Those moments are on display in the graphic novel with Tajchman’s sarcasm and wisdom.
Funny moments captured in Wamiru’s drawings do not only depict Tajchman, the release continues, but also the sense of self-deprecating humor and personal legacy of so many aging and vital relatives as they respond to and interact with family and friends.
Morris said for her students, meeting anyone from the field is beneficial, but Wamiru was particularly inspiring.
“Wamiru taught me that you can pursue hobbies or interests that you have and make a living out of it,” senior Gabriel Scott said. “She also taught me that working hard and practicing for what you want will help you succeed in that path. She encouraged everyone to put your artwork out there for the world to see and people will gradually gain interest and come to you for potential job opportunities.”
Having persevered making a career out of what she loved, Morris said Wamiru has become extremely successful, conquering gender roles and becoming the first female political illustrator in east Africa.
“She recognizes her role to give back to society by volunteering and advocating for women’s rights,” Morris continued. “My students were very fortunate to be able to meet Ms. Wamiru, hear her story, listen to her advice and hopefully will stay inspired to keep working at what they love.”