How many ways can you write the alphabet?

At the Abecedaire exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur (AFKL), 26 illustrators show how they can also draw it.

With each illustrator taking “ownership” of a letter, visitors can expect a diverse selection of contemporary works ranging from the whimsical to humorous and contemplative.

Each letter is represented by two panels: one with the artwork, and the other with lists or short stories in French, English and German.

The illustrators, who are mostly French, are familiar names in the youth literature scene, and the writers involved in this project are children’s literature author Ramona Badescu (Pomelo The Garden Elephant series) and comic book artist Emmanuel Guibert (who worked on the Eisner award-winning graphic novel The Photographer).

“The exhibition was created within the framework of the Salon de la Litterature et de la Presse Jeunesse (SLPJ), the Youth Literature and Press Fair, that is held in Montreuil, France every December. It is the biggest fair dedicated to youth literature in France,” says Noemie Robin, project manager at the French embassy of Malaysia.


A by Antoine Guillop. Photo: Institut Francais/SLPJ

Various exhibitions are held as part of the SLPJ programme each year; in 2017, Abecedaire was one of them.

The exhibition made its debut at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017, just before its showcase at the SLPJ in December the same year.

According to the exhibition brief: “As the quintessential childhood picture book, the alphabet brings out the meaning, the music and the power of language with its words and images. Thanks to the relationship between words and images, the child discovers an infinite space to nourish his or her imagination and representations of the world. Today’s alphabet have become real playgrounds for illustrators … (they) have taken up the challenge by offering a fantastic panorama of contemporary illustration as much by its artistic diversity as by the sensitivities and subtleties it portrays in the relationship between words and their pictures.”


C by Blexbolex. Photo: Institut Francais/SLPJ

Abecedaire is showing at AFKL until March 2. It is a collaboration between AFKL and the embassy of France in Malaysia, together with the Institut Francais.

There are plans to bring the exhibition to Malaysian schools and institutions after the show’s run at AFKL.

“We hope this will be a journey of discovery for visitors; for them to be mesmerised by the illustrations, and learn new words or expressions,” says Robin.

“An exhibition like Abecedaire is a fun and playful way to promote the French language, its richness and its creativity.”

She adds that both French speakers and non-French speakers will be able to enjoy the exhibition.

Abecedaire is on at Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur, 15, Lorong Gurney, off Jalan Semarak in Kuala Lumpur till March 2. Opening hours: 9am to 6pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Free admission. Closed on public holidays. More info: Call: 03-2694 7880.