Once in a rare while a work of art of such purity comes along that it stands alone, unmissable and unmistakably authentic, amidst this clamouring world of posters, panels of experts and slick promotion. Fresh, breath taking and intellectually startling The Black Book of Colours is a simply designed book that contains intellectual and spiritual complexity, poetry, truth, insight and art.
Conceptualized and written by Menena Cottin and delicately illustrated by Rosana Faria, The Black Book of Colour has no actual colour while sensorily exploding with every rich hue. Meant for blind children to grasp what is ultimately unknowable to them, it is in Braille with raised illustrations and simple but shockingly beautiful descriptions of colours, essentially associative, relating to experiences, food or nature. Simple white text accompanies Braille so the book can be enjoyed by all. Those with sight can also teach themselves Braille by following the guide on the last page.
We follow a little blind boy, Thomas, who “sees” with his vivid imagination and takes us on a tour of colours. Like the blurb at the back of the book explains: “Thomas can’t see colours, but he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them”.
Thus the world is made new with haunting illustrations that arrest the senses and fresh, revelatory and enchanting descriptions:
“Green can make your tongue tingle with mint ice-cream and warms us with hot tea. It tastes like lettuce, broccoli or spinach. Green smells like freshly cut grass with the sound of a football stadium. It reminds us of walks in the botanical gardens and sounds like leaves blowing in the trees or frogs in the pond.”
“Yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”
“Red is sour like unripe strawberries and as sweet as watermelon. It hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee.”
And the particularly magnificent:
“Purple looks like our galaxy; it is the tingling sound of an amethyst necklace;... A world without purple is a world without knowledge.”
The most incredible thing about this book, apart from being a keeper, is how it opens the eyes of those of us who do have sight. The Black Book of Colours makes you see again.
“And when the sun peeks through the falling water, all the colours come out, and that’s a rainbow.”
By Malini Aikat