Notebooks can serve many purposes: to plan, document, inspire new concepts, and archive those rejected; to reveal the inner workings of our best ideas, and conceal those we hope will never see the light of day.

Over the last 15 years, the non-profit Moleskine Foundation has amassed a collection of more than 1,300 ‘art notebooks’, created by artists, designers, architects, musicians, filmmakers, illustrators, intellectuals and philosophers. Each contributor has transformed a Moleskine notebook into their own conceptual canvas, brimming with thoughts, sketches, images. 

The cover of William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation collection
The cover of William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation Collection

The resulting objects form artworks in themselves, but more broadly, create tools for education and social change. Among those who have offered their creations to the collection are Massimiliano Fuksas, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Ahmet Öğüt, Yves Behar, Sue Williamson, Patricia Urquiola, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Sigur Rós, Nicholas Hlobo, and a striking three-dimensional intervention by Joana Vasconcelos

The latest addition to Moleskine’s impressive list of contributors is South African artist William Kentridge. Moleskine’s invitation to Kentridge came with a question: ‘What comes first?’ Kentridge answered with I am still a parable, which according to the artist is ‘a book of thinking aloud, testing the relationship of images and text. It is a record of process, rather than having any intended meaning. It gathers scraps of images and text from the studio, and as in many of my notebooks, is a mix of unused space and thoughts accepted and abandoned.’

Pages from William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation collection
Pages from William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation collection

Kentridge’s contribution is characterisitic of his wide-ranging practice – which spans prints, drawing, animated film and performance. I am still a parable features pages filled with drawing, text-based concepts and photographic work, to form a continuous visual allegory. 

Kentridge’s donation to the collection is undoubtedly thought-provoking but takes on a role far beyond an art object. It’s a starting point for Moleskine’s unconventional education programme to inspire young creatives from marginalised communities. AtWork aims to unlock the creative potential of young people through critical thinking, nurturing their sense of self-awareness and self-confidence. 

During a five-day workshop, AtWork participants are given a question, centring on issues such as identity, diversity, culture, and community. Their response is generated in the form of a personalised art notebook. These are first exhibited in a local collective exhibition and then in the final international tour exhibition. The participants can then choose to donate their works to the Moleskine Foundation Collection alongside those created by leading creatives. §

Pages from William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation collection
Pages from William Kentridge’s I am still a parable, which has been donated to the Moleskine Foundation collection