Marios Boras is the 11th cartoonist from Greece to join Cartoon Movement. He is an independent cartoonist and illustrator working for various publishers.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, the biggest art festival in Africa. I was there by invitation of the Embassy of the Netherlands in South Africa, a co-sponsor of Think!fest, a series of lectures at the festival. The theme this year, with the attack on Charlie Hebdo in mind, was satire. As part of our international Peace & Justice project, I joined forces with one of South Africa’s best cartoonists, Jeremy Nell (also known as Jerm), to talk about the importance of satire.
In preparing our talk, Jeremy and I decided that we would like to focus on the limits of satire. We wanted to reflect on the use and misuse of stereotypes in cartoons, the way cartoons can fight but can also reinforce prejudice, and explore what is taboo in South African and Dutch society.
In South Africa, cartoonists have to tread very carefully when they deal with race and religion. And while Jeremy thinks that a cartoonists should be able to poke fun at anyone, mocking Nelson Mandela is a no-go. Jeremy is probably the most hard-hitting cartoonist publishing in South Africa. He consistently pushes the boundaries of what you can mock. He’s also known to use stereotypes in his work, and sometimes this gets him into trouble. But controversy does not always come from where you expect it.
The cartoon above featuring the big five, with the rhinoceros replaced by an Asian carrying a stack of rhino horns, was published throughout South Africa and in the US without any angry response. Then, when it was entered into a competition in Germany, it was rejected in the final round on the grounds of being racist. When Jeremy was told the stereotype of the Asian was crossing the line, he simply replied: 'How did you know it was an Asian?’ Because although stereotypes can reinforce existing prejudices, they are also an important tool for cartoonists, who rely on a collective visual language to connect their work with the audience.
Here is some more work by Jeremy that was considered controversial in some way or another:
Dutch society is also no stranger to taboo. Dutch anti-Islam cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot was apprehended by the authorities in 2008 for allegedly spreading hatred with his very provocative cartoons on Islam in what many still consider to be a political arrest. Another big taboo in the Netherlands is anything related to Hitler or the Holocaust. Comparing anyone to Hitler will virtually always cause a big controversy.
Geert Wilders is perhaps the most (in)famous Dutch politician. He is vehemently anti-Islam and his proposed measures to combat what he calls the ‘Islamization of Europe’, such as a tax on the head veil that Muslim women wear, do invite social satirists to compare him to a certain German politician that targeted a particular part of the population. Wilders has gotten so annoyed by being compared to Hitler, he came out last year with the statement that he would sue anyone who would make this comparison. This statement was, of course, great material for cartoonists. But how to approach the subject without actually getting sued? Below is an explanation of a cartoon I did on the matter, that did make a Hitler reference, but did not actually get me into trouble:
But another cartoon did get me into trouble. Last year, I was asked to make a cartoon about Islamic State for Boomerang, a company that provides free postcards that are distributed to bars, cinemas, theatres and restaurants in the Netherlands. I decided to make a cartoon that would not focus on IS exclusively, but was a critique of religion in general. As I mentioned earlier, controversy often comes from where you least expect it. I this case, it wasn’t angry Muslims rallying against the cartoon. Instead, Christians were outraged that their religion was being compared to IS.
So how does all of the above relate to our cartoon project on peace and justice? It seems counterintuitive, but insulting and provocative cartoons do actually have a role to play when it comes to creating a peaceful and just society. Because we can only create a fair society if we are allowed to debate what we consider to be the wrongs of that society. And sometimes you need a bit of controversy to make people think about issues that would be ignored otherwise. And as cartoonists, creating controversy is part of our job description.
By Tjeerd Royaards
All images © Jerm & Tjeerd
Ilian Savkov is the second cartoonist from Bulgaria to join Cartoon Movement. His work is characterized by loose lines that show a confidence most artists work very hard to achieve. Ilian publishes in Bulgarian daily newspaper Standart.
Cartoons are the barometer of freedom. You can measure the level of freedom in a society by what it allows to be ridiculed. But every society has taboos, subjects that, when mocked, will always be controversial. In their joint talk at ThinkFest! (part of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa), South African cartoonist Jeremy Nell (Jerm) and Dutch cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards explore the limits of social satire in their respective countries.
Cartoons can be a powerful weapon, which means cartoonists have a responsibility to consider the potential impact of their work. But provocation and insult are -and should continue to be- an essential part of the toolbox of a cartoonist.
Jeremy and Tjeerd show examples of their own cartoons that deliberately use the power to insult to make a point, and explain why these cartoons matter, even if they get you fired (in the case of Jeremy) or anger half the country (in the case of Tjeerd).
A new cartoon app launched this month for both Android and Apple. The app, called The Illustrated, delivers 5 high quality political cartoons from around the world to your tablet or smartphone each day.
Its ultimate goal is ‘to create a visual historical receptacle of world events.’
We’re always happy to see people share our vision of political cartoons. In this case, we’re also thrilled that Cartoon Movement cartoons are part of the daily package.
You can download the app here for free. The free app includes one daily cartoon. If you’re willing to spend $0.99 cent monthly, you’ll get acces to all five daily cartoons. And you’ll of course be sponsoring some very thankful cartoonists around the globe.
Below are screenshots of the app:
Thoughts on FECO - by Tjeerd Royaards
FECO or the Federation of Cartoonists Organisations was founded 1983 in by three cartoonists from the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain. According to their website, they now have chapters in over 30 countries. The goals of FECO are to provide information on cartoon contests around the world, to safeguard author's rights and freedom of opinion, and to support cartoonists who have been victimized for political or professional reasons (this last goal is listed on the website, although not every board member agrees this should be part of the mission of FECO).
FECO is one of the major players in the field of cartooning. But it is not uncontroversial. One critic is Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani, who has fled Iran because of his work. He has been living in exile in France since 2010. He is highly critical of FECO's activities in Iran, in particular the fact that FECO cooperates with the Iranian House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association (until quite recently the official representative of FECO in Iran - according to FECO they did not pay their contribution, so they no longer have this role). Ramezani: 'The world knows these two organizations are part of the propaganda of the Islamic State of Iran. They are directly responsible for the exile of numerous Iranian cartoonists, for repression and torture. The world knows all cartooning events are managed by them with an enormous budget of the regime.'
In an open letter to FECO, Ramezani calls upon the organization to stop its cooperation with the Iran House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association. Several board members of FECO have responded this his letter.
French cartoonist Brito mentions the many the talented cartoonists in Iran: 'I consider it our duty not to close doors and windows of the world to cartoonists from Iran. And I think that, perhaps, one of the possible ways to do that is to participate in Iranian contests. Personally, I never participated in any Iranian contest and that I don’t intend to do so, but I defend the right of any cartoonist to do this. If we boycott Iran, why not boycott Russia, China, Cuba, the United States of America or Israel?'
Dutch artist and one of the founders of FECO, Peter Nieuwendijk, writes the following in a personal statement in response to Ramezani's letter: 'We are NOT Amnesty International. We are NOT Cartoonists Rights Network International. We are no politicians, we are no judges, we do not condemn. We are cartoonists. We draw about problems; we make people think and laugh, help them to decide, so they can form their own conclusions.'
Judge and Condemn
As editor of a cartoon platform that also has the mission to stand up for freedom of expression and to support cartoonists in trouble, and as an editorial cartoonist myself, I can't help but agree with some of the points raised by Kianoush Ramezani.
In February, we wrote about the Holocaust Cartoon Competition organized by the House of Cartoon in Iran. We noted that the competition was 'politically motivated, politically funded, and politically controlled by the Iranian government.' This competition is not looking for independent cartoons, but for images that will support the politics of Iran.
Brito raises a fair point when he asks why we should boycott Iran and not other countries. But to me, the delineator is quite clear. Yes, I disagree with many of the policies of the US and Israel, but any competition taking place in these countries will be independent of the state. I can make a hard-hitting caricature of Obama or Netanyahu and send it in for a competition in these countries. I could of course also send a caricature of Rouhani or Khamenei to an Iranian cartoon competition, but I doubt it would be published, let alone selected as prize-winner. US cartoonist Daryl Cagle made a great protest cartoon which he entered into the Holocaust Competition. I doubt we will see it on Irancartoon.com.
Brito goes on to note that in some countries censorship can be insidious, less visible than in Iran but no less damaging. Althoug this is undoubtedly true, we have to draw a line somewhere. And I think putting an end to cooperation with openly state-sponsored cartoon institutions of authoritarian regimes is a good place to start.
Ramezani points out that boycotting these two organizations would not mean a total boycott of cartoonists in Iran. He argues that FECO should connect with independent Iranian cartoonists.
To me, the core of cartooning is independence, and its foundation is freedom of expression. In a world where truth is often in the eye of the beholder, these two values should be paramount to cartoonists and the organizations that represent them. Contrary to what Mr. Nieuwendijk believes, I do feel it's our duty to judge and condemn those who threaten our freedom to draw what we want, and those who would use cartoons for propaganda and political purposes. I wholeheartedly agree that we should not lose touch with the cartoonists in Iran, but I do not believe that working with regime-sponsored institutions to that end is a constructive way to do that. We should find a way to connect with independent Iranian cartoonists, however difficult that may be.
I'd be very interested to hear what other cartoonists (and people interested in cartoons) think about this. Feel free to share your point of view in the comment section below.
Update: Just before publication of this post, Daryl Cagle mentioned new developments on his Facebook page. He states Bernard Bouton, secretary-general of FECO (and also a member of the Cartoon Movement community) has resigned from FECO. In recent days, Bouton has been criticized for participating in the Holocaust Competition. According to Cagle, ‘the French cartoonists, the largest part of FECO, are calling for new elections to replace the FECO board and to disassociate FECO from Iran's infamous ‘House of Cartoons’. We will continue to follow the story, and will report any new developments.
Sahar Ajami is an Oslo based Iranian artist. She started her profession when she was a student, after she won several prizes in cartoon festivals. Sahar has worked on projects ranging from text books to award-winning cartoons and illustrations. Her works have been included in over 20 books and a wide variety of illustration, cartoon and and art catalogs. Currently She is working on a series of cartoons focused on women and their issues. To see more of her work, check out her Facebook page.
Cartoon by Kianoush.
Cartoon Movement is partnering with Le Mémorial de Caen to organize the 5th International Meeting of Press Cartoonists. In February, it looked as though the meeting might not happen this year. Security risks forced the Memorial to rethink the event. Last month, we traveled to Caen to discuss a new date and this year’s programme together with the Memorial.
The date and theme of this year’s meeting were revealed at a press conference in Caen last Wednesday. The 5th meeting will take place on 11, 12, and 13 September. The overarching theme will be the consequences for cartoonists of the 7th of January, when Charlie Hebdo was attacked. September 11 was chosen as a symbolic starting date, because the 7th of January can in some ways be seen as the 9/11 of cartoonists. On that day, it became irrevocably clear what power simple lines on paper can possess, and what consequences they can have for the people who draw these lines.
Stéphane Grimaldi, director of the Memorial, Joël Bruneau, the mayor of Caen, and cartoonists Kianoush, Chaunu and Tjeerd Royaards present the program of the 5th cartoonists’ meeting. Image courtesy of Liberté Bonhomme.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo forces cartoonists to rethink their profession and their role in society. To do this, we will bring together 40 cartoonist from all over the globe. And instead of having everybody draw the most offensive cartoon of Mohammed, we’re looking to start a conversation. About whether there are limits to freedom of expression or not. And if the right to insult is essential to cartooning.
Here are the subjects that we will be talking about:
-Does freedom of speech have limits?
-How has cartooning changed since January 7?
-The business side: making a living with cartoons
-Editorial cartoon throughout history.
-Are cartoons a universal language?
-What is a good cartoon?
-Editorial cartoon in school: educational uses, experiences
-Are cartoonists journalists?
The continued threat to cartoonists has forced us to rethink the organization of this year’s event. All activities will take place at the Memorial. The list of attending cartoonists will be made public in the week before the event, not before. And people who are interested in attending will have to register via the website of the Memorial.
Although we sincerely regret that these security measures are necessary, we feel it’s important to keep the conversation on freedom of expression going.
Registration for the event will be possible on the website of the Memorial from the 1st of June.