By Anne Herbauts
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince. Those bereft of vision, therefore, need not be bereft of the essential — they discern it by means other than sight.
The richness of that otherness is what Belgian artist and author Anne Herbauts has captured in this wonderful book.
One day a blind child asks an adult ‘What colour is the wind?’
Through the question, we understand that when it comes to the wind, the blind and the seeing, humans and animals, know equally much, just differently. Could it be that the wind has colour, texture, a smell, a touch, even a taste?
To convey this idea in an affecting way, Herbauts presents a visual and tactile palette of cut-outs, textures, shapes and colours. The book itself thus becomes a sensory experience that enlivens all of our senses as we ponder the many ways in which we sense, see, and feel the world around us.
The protagonist, the little giant, asks a dog, wolf, elephant, mountain, rain, window, apple bird, stream, and tree––about the colour of the wind. The responses, all different, involve a shapes, colours, smells, textures, and ideas.
The pictures here do no justice to the complexity of the work which combines matt and gloss, embossing, texture and cut outs on the page. It is a sensory experience that makes the invisible experiential, encouraging us to follow the example of the big giant and feel the wind by making the pages fly
What emerges is a parallel invitation to empathy and self-expansion in imagining the world as the unsighted experience it and exploring a different sensorial space than the one we sighted humans ordinarily inhabit. Just as the universe of smell unlocks hidden layers of reality, so does the universe of touch.
Thanks to the wonderful Maria Popova (some of these words are hers) and Brain Pickings (www.brainpickings.org) for bringing this little bit of wonderful to my attention and to Brooklyn-based independent publisher Enchanted Lion, for bringing this book to the English speaking world.