This article presents research with migrant primary school learners in South Africa using the wordless picturebook The Arrival (by Shaun Tan) as a research tool. Bringing together the disciplines of literacies and childhood studies, it considers representation, storytelling, absence and silence as part of children's ‘voice’ in order to shed light on communication during fieldwork with Black migrant learners in South Africa. It examines both the absences and/or silences in The Arrival itself and instances where silence was used by participants, potentially as a way of avoiding topics such as children's ‘voice’ and ‘race’. It offers possible explanations for such silence and absence, including that such topics were banal to the learners, too sensitive or controversial and made them feel uncomfortable discussing with a White researcher in a school where the majority of teachers were White, or that the characters were not representative of their racial identities. Ultimately, I argue that the concepts of silence and absence should be considered more carefully when using literature as a tool in research and teaching, as a step towards enabling children to engage with storytelling in a way that is more reflective of their own multivocal stories. Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Literacy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of United Kingdom Literacy Association.
CitationHanna, H. (2022). Recognising silence and absence as part of multivocal storytelling in and through picturebooks: Migrant learners in South Africa engaging with The Arrival. Literacy, 56(1), 40-49. doi: 10.1111/lit.12269
- Absence representation
- Primary education