Baobá is a new bookshop in Lisbon, solely dedicated to illustration. But it’s more than that: it comes from the need to“stimulate children’s artistic sensitivity”, “breaking stereotypes” and “leaving fairy tales behind,”  Carla Oliveira tells mART.

By Luciana Leitão

March will feature illustrator Catarina Sobral, but also plastic arts workshops and a book launch by Ondjaki and António Jorge Gonçalves. Baobá is a new bookshop in Lisbon focusing on illustration — it brings books, but also organises regular activities around the genre, taking people outside their homes to a different one.

The name Baobá comes from a tree, which, according to folk tales, challenged the gods for having the roots turned upwards. Baobá opened its doors on November, in the typical neighbourhood of Campo de Ourique, with the aim of “breaking free children from the world of fairytales and princesses”, allowing them to read about “other type of topics”.

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It all happened two years ago, when the publishing house Orfeu Negro created an illustration collection titled Orfeu Mini. From then on, Ms Oliveira, in charge of the publishing house, decided to create a pop up bookstore, only opened for two months’, during Christmas period.

It was opened every day for two months. It featured workshops, role playing, story telling and painting activities for the children, and had a small corner dedicated to the adults. In the shelves, there were books from Orfeu Mini, but also others like Planeta Tangerina, Pato Lógico, Tcharan, Bruaá, Kalandraka, Margarida Botelho, Gatafunho and Livros Horizonte.

The pop up bookstore was the seed that would fill Ms Oliveira’s head of opening a more permanent venue. And so Baobá was born, with the same publishing houses’ books filling the space, plus others.

Baobá looks like home, as it was designed to feel like home. It has a living room, a corridor, rooms and a rooftop, with books in every corner. You can sit at the kitchen right bellow the chimney, while reading the different titles available at the bookstore. 

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There’s a story telling room, where you can sit to listen regular reading out loud. For now, the books available are for children and youths, but Ms Oliveira wants to extend it to adult illustration.

The activities

March will be a full month, with different activities occurring. “At the beginning we thought of having activities every month, by theme, by authors, but we realised it is impossible to limit ourselves,” she says. There will be a workshop on plastic expression and writing, on March 1, during Carnival, targeting children aged from six to 12. “We will create disguises to use from head to toes, recycling materials you have at home,” the organisers mention in a note for the public. On March 3, Portuguese illustrator Catarina Sobral will guide the audience through her books, talking about everything behind them. Plus, there will be creative writing workshops, story telling activities and other book launches.

Open to all, Ms Oliveira says this venue was born because illustration itself has started in the past few years to grow in Portugal, with different publishing houses appearing focusing on the genre.

Yet, the bookshop opened, when children’s books in Lisbon are closing, but that doesn’t bother Ms Oliveira, as it was time for the Baobá tree to plant its seed, stimulating different things for children, youths and all that are interested in illustration.