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Illustration 31 October 2023

Illustration exhibition Telling the City

The idea for Telling the City came from Vilnius celebrating its 700th anniversary this year. It got us thinking about how the city is reflected in children’s literature. A retrospective look revealed that it is not a common subject in Lithuanian children’s literature, even less so in illustration. Historically, nature was considered a safer environment for children to grow up in. It was seen as more welcoming, able to provide shelter, peace and knowledge. Cities, in contrast, were mostly portrayed as hectic, even dangerous places. So with this exhibition we wanted to bring the city to the fore and highlight its importance in children’s book illustration. We were also keen to look at urban spaces from various angles. What does the city represent to artists from different countries? How does a communal city becomes one’s own? What makes it a beautiful and safe space for a child to live in?

Bringing together a creative island of Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Polish artists, we encouraged each contributor to look at the city from a time perspective – to explore its past, present and future. At the same time it was important to recognise the uniqueness of every city, noticing what is happening there, tracing new stories being born.

The exhibition is divided into several district-like segments. Each section reflects the very fabric of the city, its urbanisation and life in it. The narrative is based on three topics:

  • City as a living thing: various buildings (colours, textures, lines), street network, transport and the people operating it all;
  • Life in the city: celebrations and everyday activities (shops, crafts and professions);
  • Undiscovered city: utopian, undiscovered, diverse, mysterious and enticing. The architecture of the exhibition itself adds to the sense of being in the city, so certain movement rules need to be followed.

Telling the City showcases the work of 20 acclaimed illustrators from 4 Baltic countries. Each artist invites the audience to look at the city more closely, to experience its artistic urban character, to read its stories – true or imagined.

Illustrations for this exhibition have been produced by the following artists: Ieva Babilaitė, Inga Dagilė, Simona Jurčiukonytė, Aušra Kiudulaitė and Martynas Pavilonis from Lithuania; Aleksejs Naumovs, Gundega Muzikante, Līva Ozola, Anita Paegle and Anna Vaivare from Latvia; Kärt Einasto, Ragne Hoog, Marja-Liisa Plats, Ulla Saar and Reda Tomingas from Estonia; Maciek Blaźniak, Katarzyna Bogucka, Dominika Czerniak-Chojnacka, Gosia Kulik and Adam Pękalski from Poland.

Telling the City (2023). Illustration exhibition. Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania, Vilnius. 16 November 2023 – 11 January 2024.

Exhibition launch event: 7 pm Thursday, 16 November 2023, 5th floor atrium of Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania (51 Gedimino Av., Vilnius, LT-01109 Lithuania)


The exhibition is part of this year’s Children’s Book Island Festival which returns to Vilnius

with the slogan Cities that nurture kids and books.

Curatorial team:

Dr Jolita Liškevičienė (team lead, Lithuania);

Silvija Tretjakova (Latvia);

Anita Wincencjusz-Patyna (Poland);

Ulla Saar (Estonia)

Architecture and graphic design: Povilas Vincentas Jankūnas

Idea: Justinas Vancevičius

Visual: City Jungle by Līva Ozola (Latvia)


Children’s World (Vaikų žemė) programme, Centre for School Improvement;

Estonian Children’s Literature Centre;

IBBY Latvia;

Baltic Sea Cultural Centre in Gdansk

Event sponsored by:

Baltic Culture Fund;

Lithuanian Council for Culture;

Vilnius Municipality;

Polish Institute Vilnius


Lithuanian Culture Institute;

Latvian Literature platform;

Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania

Briefly about the exhibition

16 November 2023 – 11 January 2024
library working hours
5th floor atrium
Children’s World (Vaikų žemė) programme, Centre for School Improvement; Estonian Children’s Literature Centre; IBBY Latvia; Baltic Sea Cultural Centre in Gdansk
More information