Marjorie van Heerden was born in De Doorns and grew up on a farm in the Hex River Valley in South Africa. From a very early age she loved drawing animals and fairies and people and dinosaurs and children and dragons and monsters and everything. Today they appear in all shapes and sizes in the more than 120 illustrated children’s books that feature her work. Since the publication of her first children’s picture book in 1983 Marjorie has been published as illustrator or writer/illustrator in 33 languages in Africa, Britain, Europe, the East, Canada and the USA.
She and her husband lived and worked in Stellenbosch for 20 years, in Johannesburg for another ten, travelled for eighteen months on honeymoon in a camper-van all around Europe, lived for a year on the banks of Lake Michigan in the USA and for four years in a forest high on a mountain north of Athens in Greece. From each of these places Marjorie drew inspiration for the menagerie of animals, fairies, dragons, monsters and people that populate her illustrations.
Since 2003 the Van Heerdens live next to the sea in Gordon’s Bay, once again near Cape Town. Their two children are grown up and out of the house and they now have three little granddaughters to enjoy Ouma’s work. Marjorie’s studio is in the loft of their home and she sits looking at the magnificent view over False Bay while she writes and illustrates her stories.
Marjorie tirelessly works for the development of South African children’s book writers and illustrators and in 2003 she started the South African chapter of the international Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) based in Los Angeles and active in more than 40 countries around the globe. She is currently the co-regional advisor of the SA chapter. (In 2000 she and a friend also started the SCBWI chapter in Greece).
Important awards Marjorie has won for her work include the 2011 W.B. Mkhize Award, given annually by the Usiba Writers’ Guild, for the Zulu version of Lulama’s long way home (Uhambo LukaLulama Olude), a picture book she wrote and illustrated, published by Giraffe Books, an imprint of Pan MacMillan. In 2012, Marjorie and author Alex D’Angelo won the M.E.R. Award (one of the Media24 Books Literary Awards) for the best illustrated children’s book published in South African during the previous year (2011) – they won for Goblin Diaries: Apprenticed to the Red Witch, published by Tafelberg Publishers (SA). This was the second time she had been awarded this prestigious award - the first time was in 2008 when she won it with author Wendy Hartmann for Nina and Little Duck, published in 2007 by Human & Rousseau (SA).
Some recent highlights in Marjorie’s career include being commissioned by Human & Rousseau Publishers in 2009 to illustrate André P. Brink’s Afrikaans translation of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The publication coincided with the celebrated South African novelist, scholar and translator’s 75th birthday. In 2011 she was commissioned, for the first time, to illustrated original Chinese children’s picture books; Numbers Do (數數) and Ears Hear (耳朵聽見), written by Kathleen Ahrens and Chu-Ren Huang, were illustrated by Marjorie and published by Sun Ya Publishers (Hong Kong) in 2012. She is currently illustrating a book, written by Sunita Bhamray, to be published in Malaysia in 2013.
(updated February 2013)