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A Creative Platform for Ivanova

When Greg Burgess started Publications for African Youth (PJA), he had two goals. First, he wanted to help create meaningful content with culturally appropriate messages specifically for young African Christians. Second, he wanted to support the development of African Christian authors and illustrators. Both aims have been beautifully met by his friendship with native Cameroonian Ivanova Nono Fotso.

Greg was already working on his African Youth Magazine when he was contacted by his friends at Magazine Training International, a non-profit that provides training for aspiring writers in developing countries. They told him about a young woman in Cameroon named Ivanova who was interested in writing for a Christian publication. Greg contacted Ivanova and asked her to send him some writing samples.

Ivanovo had majored in Modern French at the University of Yaoundé and had published a few articles for a local African women’s magazine called Amina. As Greg read through her samples, he saw her talent immediately. Ivanova’s voice was not stiff or stilted but naturally transported from the heart. So, Greg invited Ivanova to write for his magazine. After she accepted, their wonderful partnership blossomed.

For the first time, Ivanova’s writing reached a broad audience as African Youth Magazine was distributed all over French-speaking Africa. When Greg developed the African Christian comics project, Eclats, along with Nate Butler (former Marvel and DC Comics illustrator and founder of COMIX35, a ministry that helps Christians create better visual storying media for missions and Christian growth) Ivanova joined the first workshop in her hometown of Yaoundé, Cameroon. Through these two platforms, Ivanova sharpened her skills even as she produced valuable content for the youth of Africa.

Through Eclats, Ivanova created a comic that drew on her personal experiences with the Cameroonian tradition of breast ironing.

In Cameroon, many mothers worry about their daughters achieving their full potential in education and professional success, and so they often take hot objects like stones to press against their child’s underdeveloped breasts. They hope that if they can deter their daughters from developing, men will not find them attractive. These mothers believe they are protecting their daughters’ purity and education, but the tradition can cause health complications and psychological damage.

One out of every four Cameroonian girls experience breast ironing, so Ivanova created her comic to speak out against the practice. Her work, motivated purely by seeking social justice for the glory of God, was picked up by an African women’s organization and distributed to the young women and families they serve. God used what started as a personal concern to impact a larger group of mothers and daughters through the message in Ivanova’s comic.

One of her favorite projects has been a children’s book about trusting God when you’re afraid. The book focuses on how God’s presence is the reason we don’t need to fear. It’s had a broad-reaching impact on African children with over 5,000 copies distributed. At an event she organized at a local orphanage, Ivanova handed out her books to the children, and in response, they created a dramatization of the book and performed it for her.

This coming July the book will travel even farther and will be distributed by French missionaries visiting refugee camps in the Central African Republic and the Congo.

Greg feels blessed to have been a part of Ivanova’s flourishing as a Christian author in Africa and they continue to work on new projects. Her desire to help others with her talent is an inspiration. All of her writing has been God-honoring and in service to others. She’s driven by godly motivations; it’s all about her heavenly Father. Her and Greg’s work is a great example of how creative innovations are helping further the missional pursuits of the Nations.

“Writing for children can help mold in us a loving and humble heart, an eagerness to learn, and trusting dependence on our Heavenly Father. It can also give us a glimpse of the greatest Wonderland, the Kingdom of God. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me the privilege to write. Help me to seek you and keep this trusting and humble heart.” –Ivanova Nono Fotso