Rafael Yockteng was born in 1976 in Lima, Peru. In 1980 he moved with his family to Colombia, where he still lives today. His favorite subjects at school were mathematics and physics, so he decided to study mechanical engineering. After three semesters he began to draw and write, changed his major, and studied graphic design at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogotá. In 2000 he won the Utopía competition of the Organización Internacional para el Libro Juvenil (IBBY) for Latin American illustrators of children’s books. Since then he has mainly illustrated children’s books for publishers in Colombia, Canada, and Mexico.
Yockteng has been working with his friend and colleague Jairo Buitrago since 2007. Together they have created many children’s books. »Eloisa y los bichos« (2009; tr: Eloisa and the Bugs), for example, tells the story of a little girl who comes to the big city for the first time and sees all the people there as insects. It was nominated for the White Raven and was selected by the Banco del libro de Venezuela as one of the best books. Yockteng, who initially worked with pencil sketches for the illustrations, which he then digitized, also drew on his own experiences as a four-year-old when he arrived in the big city of Bogotá. The book »El primer día« (2010; tr: The First Day), which was written to honor the bicentennial anniversary of the founding of the first republic in Colombia, focuses on the history of the country and tells the story of the war for independence from a child’s perspective. »Dos conejos blancos« (2015; Eng. »Two White Rabbits«, 2015) takes on a highly relevant topic and portrays migrants from Latin America moving towards the US border in search of a better life. In »Al otro lado del jardín« (2016; Eng. »On the Other Side of the Garden«, 2017) little Isabel, who lives outside the city with her grandmother, meets an owl, a toad, and a mouse in the garden. The story moves graphically from a dark blue of nocturnal homesickness to the bright and saturated colors of the hopeful morning in the garden. In the tradition of the fables by Aesop and La Fontaine, »León y ratón« (2016; Eng. »Lion and Mouse«, 2019) tells of two different characters – a silent lion and a voracious mouse who nevertheless become friends. »Y tú, ¿cómo estás?« (2016; tr: And You, How Are You?) is about the everyday life of a city child who, on the way to school and home, meets squirrels, swallows, and other animals in addition to humans who all ask about the child’s condition. In this way, the child learns the meaning of polite questions and greetings in everyday life.
Yockteng lives in Bogotá today.