The work of Jeroen Janssen is injected with a strong dose of humanity. His projects contain life stories and travel sketches, enabling him to evoke a strong folk feel for various cultures and peoples. Janssen is a comic artist, illustrator and colourist who studied at the Saint-Luc Art Institute in Ghent. He started drawing comics while he was living and working as an art teacher in Nyundo, Rwanda in the 90s.
With exuberant flourishes, his pencil captures the stories of communities. Often working together with Dutch author Pieter van Oudheusden, he tackles difficult topics, as well as local impressions. Their collaborations include stories inspired by African fables and folk tales, resulting in titles like ‘Bakamé’ (2003), ‘De Grote Tovenaar: De kruisweg van Mpyisi (The Great Wizard: The Crossroads of Mpyisi)’ (2007) and ‘De Wraak van Bakamé (Bakamé’s Revenge)’ (2010).
Short stories by Janssen have appeared in magazines like Beeldstorm, Stripburger, Incognito, Kerozene, Parcifal, Ink, Orsai and Zone 5300. His first long comic story was called ‘Muzungu, Sluipend Gif (Creeping Poison) in Rwanda’. This awarded tale approached the topic of the civil war in Rwanda.
His later works expand on the graphic documentary angle. One of Janssen’s most recent publications is an ode to the last inhabitants of Doel, a ghost town in the polder. They willfully cling to their lives and history in the face of a mammoth project to expand the harbour, which threatens to swallow up the town.
Janssen also revisited his time teaching in Rwanda with ‘Abadaringi’, a tome about the art school where he worked. Moving between rough city sketches and colourful landscapes, he portrays the people who were there in the years before the Rwandan genocide, as they tell their stories. His expressionist style gives his readers a sense of being there, while simultaneously reminding them that they are only visiting.