Each year, Cartoonists Rights Network International hands out the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award to a cartoonist in great danger who has demonstrated exceptional courage in the exercise of free speech rights under extraordinary circumstances.
This year, for the first time, the award is given to two women cartoonists. Globally, women only constitute 10% of the political cartooning population. The recipients are Indian cartoonist Kanika Mishra and Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen.
One of Kanika's cartoons, depicting Asaram and his unwillingness to face a narco or polygraph test to prove his innocence.
Indian cartoonist Kanika Mishra, a resident in the city of Mumbai, was selected for her valor and exercise of free speech during a time of great peril. She received numerous threats from followers of a local holy man, Asaram Bapu, who were enraged at the humorous and focused cartoons she drew of his illegal sexual exploits. During this period she received phone calls from Bapu supporters threatening to kill her and her family.
When Kanika got word that popular cult leader Bapu had been accused of raping the 16-year old daughter of two of his followers, she reacted in the most powerful way she could. Four hours after hearing that there was a police manhunt for Bapu, Kanika tweeted and posted to her Facebook page a cartoon tweaking Bapu supporters’ blind faith in their guru. Kanika followed her post with more cartoons, one of him being hauled off to jail.
Reaction to Kanika’s cartoons was immediate. She soon began receiving requests for interviews from India Today and India’s most watched news channel, Aaj Tak. Following the media interest, a groundswell of new threats from Bapu's supporters broke loose. Throughout the siege by Bapu’s supporters she continued to take on Bapu's outrageous hypocrisy through her cartoons.
The award is also given to Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen. In her cartoon, she depicts her view on the relationship between Ismail Haniyeh the senior political leader of Hamas and the Al-Quds Brigades. Angered by the cartoon, the official website of the Al Qud Brigade asked for details regarding her whereabouts in hopes of scaring her and her family. One site featured a picture of someone with the same name, with the word 'Execution' placed on it. Following numerous death threats, Majda Shaheen withdrew the cartoon from her Facebook page.
Majda is a member of Cartoon Movement, you can see more of her work here.
This year’s ceremony will take place on October 11th in San Francisco, California USA during the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from the 9th to the 11th.
Next month, Cartoon Movement will be present at the Americas Latin Eco-Festival, an event that aims to strengthen the voice of the Latino community on issues relating to climate change and environmental justice. The festival takes place in Boulder, Colorado (USA) from 11 to 15 September.
Our contribution is an exhibition titled 'Drawing Attention: Cartoons on the Environment'. It will feature 250 cartoons: an exhibit of 50 physical cartoons and an additional digital presentation of 200 cartoons, bringing together perspectives on sustainability, pollution, resource scarcity and social and environmental justice. A lot of the contributing artists come from Latin America, but there is also space for perspectives from the rest of the world.
Featured most prominently will be the graphic work of Cubal artist Alex Falco Chang, whose bold images do not need words to convey a powerful message.
Some of the cartoons that will be on display at the exhbition, by Falco (Cuba), Pedro X. Molina (Nicaragua), and Chubasco (Mexico).
Last week, we welcomed our first cartoonist from Afghanistan; this week, we welcome our first cartoonist from Malta. We're also very happy to welcome a new cartoonist from Ukraine to Cartoon Movement.
Sergii Fedko is a cartoonist from Ukraine. Sergii works as an architect in Kiev; in addition he makes cartoons for newspaper and magazines.
Steve Bonelllo is a freelance cartoonist and illustrator based on the island of Malta. Since 1991, he contributes a weekly cartoon to Maltese newspaper the Sunday Times. You can see more of his work on his website.
My thoughts on cartoons and plagiarism - by Tjeerd Royaards
I wouldn't like to be accused of plagiarism, nor would any cartoonist I know. Making cartoons means taking pride in thinking up and then creating original content. That said, it's happened more than once that my cartoon closely resembled the work of a colleague cartoonist. That's not really all that surprising, given we all tend to focus on the same events, and we all tend to use the same visual toolbox. Here's an example of a while back, when I did a cartoon about the violence in Israel, replacing the star of David with smoke trails left by bullets. Some time later I saw a cartoon by Dutch cartoonist Ruben L. Oppenheimer, who did a similar cartoon with rockets (and he was first).
In these cases, I tend to send an email to the artist, share a laugh about how our mind apparently work in similar ways, and move on to my next cartoon. But not everyone agrees that most of these cases are just coincidences. Many cartoon sites, especially in the Middle East (Tabrizcartoon, Irancartoon, Syriacartoon) devote a lot of time an attention to pointing out similarities in cartoons, especially cartoons that win awards in one of the numerous cartoon competitions that take place around the world. There is even a magazine devoted to it called Similarities (although the last issue came out in 2011). The question they pose is always the same: is it just a coincidence, or is the cartoonist in question is guilty of plagiarism? The tone of the posts often tends towards the latter. Here are some examples:
Two pages from an issue of the magazine 'Similarities', available in PDF here.
A couple of days ago, a Turkish cartoonist asked me to sign a petition on Change.org. In it cartoonists call for a change in the rules of the Aydin Dogan International Cartoon Competition, a major Turkish cartoon competition. They want to add a period of 7-15 days between the selection of the finalists and deciding on the works that will receive the awards. In this period the finalists' works should be published online, and open to scrutiny by the public. Basically, to gauge whether they are original or not.
The intent of the petition might be good (petitioners say such a change will prevent any future unclarity or controversy about the originality of award-winning cartoon), but after due consideration, I have decided I will not sign. In my view, it will create a dynamic that assumes cartoonists, when unchecked, will plagiarize. My work as editor of Cartoon Movement allows me to work with an meet many international artists. I have not met a single one that I would think capable of willfully plagiarizing the work of another cartoonist. They all take great pride in their work, and so they should. Becoming a good cartoonist isn't easy, and I think it's fair to say to none of us are in it for the money.
The request to sign the petition did trigger me to write this post. I would also very much welcome the thoughts of others (cartoonists and non-cartoonists) on this matter. Are cartoonists plagiarizing to an extent that justifies taking action, or should we just accept that coincidences happen, laugh about it, and create more cartoons?
We're delighted to welcome the first cartoonist from Afghanistan to our community. Mehdi Amini is a 31-year old political cartoonist from Kabul. His work is considered too extreme in a country where freedoms are increasingly restricted and the Taliban has renewed control in some regions, so we are very happy to be able to provide platform for his cartoons.
Drawing Citizenship (a cartoon project reflecting on European Citizenship in the run-up to the European elections, in cooperation with the European Cultural Foundation) has drawn to a close, with the selection of 8 cartoons out of more than 200 submissions from both Europe and the rest of the world.
This has been one of the more interesting projects, as it is a very interesting time for the European project. In western Europe, and in countries facing severe austerity measures (like Greece), euroskepticism is on the rise. In France and the UK, anti-Europe parties (Front National and the UK Independence Party respectively) were the biggest winners of the European elections. In other parts of Europe, the mood is different. For instance, the majority in Italy, Romania and Portugal voted for left-wing parities, not aiming for less Europe, but a more social Europe instead.
So, did the cartoons reflect how Europeans feel about Europe? Well, yes and no.
No, because there were no outright anti-Europe cartoons sent in for this project. This is probably because (with the notable exception of the US, where there is a long and rich tradition of conservative cartoonists) cartoonists tend to be progressive individuals, who shy away from populism, nationalism and migration restrictions (which is what most anti-Europe parties have in common).
Yes, because we did receive some highly critical cartoons about the European Union. There's one by Vladimir Kazanevsky (shown above), visualizing the EU as mountaineers trying to reach the summit. Their safety lines are not attached to each other's waists, but like nooses to their necks. Other cartoons reflect a number themes, some decidedly progressive, others felt by Europeans from both the left and the right side of the political spectrum.
The majority of cartoons about Europe can, broadly speaking, be divided in four categories:
1) Highlighting the gap between the people in power and the European citizens.
3) Focusing on the economy, and the fact that Europe has become (in the eyes of many cartoonists) a representative of capitalist interests of banks and multinationals, with little or no regard anymore for the common citizen.
Cartoons by Anne Derenne and Trayko Popov.
4) The immigration policy of Europe; the EU should be about shared prosperity, but the freedom enjoyed by people within Europe stands in sharp contrast with the way we deal with people trying to get in.
Cartoons by Igor Lukyachenko and Tjeerd Royaards.
What a lot of these cartoons have in common is that they visualize the EU as a polity that is far removed from the Europeans. This is quite an accurate reflection of how many people in the EU feel, and why so many people stay at home on election day, or, when they do vote, decide to support anti-Europe parties.
Part of this project was to explore, apart from European politics and institutions, the ties that bind us together as Europeans. But the sad truth is, that at the moment, it is precisely the institutions of the EU (and the remote and undemocratic way they function) that seem to be the biggest obstacle in the way of developing any form of European citizenship.