Arwa Moukbel is a young cartoonist that recently joined our community. She’s from Yemen, not a place where you’d expect to find (female) cartoonists. All the more reason to ask her a few questions.
Why and when did you start making cartoons?
I always saw the daily cartoons in the local newspapers, and I was a big fan of the drawings of Naji Al-Ali. I started drawing cartoons in school, mostly about the Palestinian cause. I knew the bigger newspapers imposed restrictions on what you were allowed to draw, but at the time I hoped to find a small newspaper or website that might be interested in my work.
For a long time, I settled for making cartoons with any place to publish them. Since 8 months, I have a Facebook page.
What are the red lines (subjects you cannot draw about?
A red line in the past was to criticize the system of Ali Saleh and staff. Now, I believe, the biggest red line is criticism of the Saudi regime. My family is afraid, so they prevented me from publishing some of my cartoons that talked about Saudi Arabia 's policy towards Yemen.
But now I am very happy to joined Cartoon Movement. It gives me the chance to publish my work, a chance I do not have here in Yemen, being almost the only female cartoonist.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemen - © Arwa Moukbel
We’re very happy to welcome renowned Jordan cartoonist Osama Hajjaj to Cartoon Movement. He currently works for ‘Al Arab Al Youm’ newspaper. His cartoons are related to people’s life in Jordan and the political events in the Middle East and the world. Check out his website and Facebook page to see more of his work.
We are extremely proud to welcome renowned artist Agim Sulaj as a member of Cartoon Movement. In his cartoons he focuses on the major social and political problems of the 21st century, such as world poverty, environmental pollution, the life of an immigrant and other social topics. Agim’s work has won many awards and has been exhibited all over the world. To see more of his work, visit his website: www.agimsulaj.com
Cartoon by Gianfranco Uber.
That Africa is rising is without a doubt. Despite this, important challenges remain in a wide range of fields, from youth unemployment, to security, to healthcare – of which the latest ebola epidemic is one of the most pressing manifestations. Only once these constraints are taken into account, can sustainable economic growth and successful business ventures prosper across the continent.
Cartoon Movement is producing a series of thought-provoking cartoons on challenges that face Africa. These cartoons will be part of an exhibition at the LSE Africa Summit 2015. This project is part of our ongoing partnership with the London School of Economics
Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, I’ve been prone to introspection regarding my chosen profession. Well-known US cartoonist Daryl Cagle has referred to cartoons as the ‘flashpoint for a clash of civilizations’. I’m not sure I agree. Using terms like ‘clash of civilizations’ immediately excludes the possibility that there is common ground between ‘civilizations’ or that there is room for debate. And I think we should be weary to define press freedom and freedom of speech and opinion as examples of Western moral superiority.
The single most valuable experience I had in the week after the Paris attacks was talking to a classroom full of high school students in the Netherlands to discuss freedom of speech. I want to share the gist of that discussion here, as I think it provides valuable insights. Not insights in who’s right and who’s wrong, but insights as to how we should debate the issue.
The class was a mix of Dutch students, and students descended from immigrants, most of them Muslims. The Muslim students were confused, and angry. They felt (and perhaps rightly so) that Muslims and Islam were consistently scorned and ridiculed by the rest of society. Why should people be allowed to insult them and their beliefs?
The reality in Europe is that we live in mixed societies. Although some groups of people would like to change this, people of immigrant descent are here to stay, and immigrants will probably continue to settle in Europe. With them come different customs and beliefs. Part of living together in one society with different groups is to accommodate one another. To be tolerant and respectful. But another, equally important part, at least in an open society, is the ability to be frank with one another, to question each other’s actions and principles, to debate. This public debate serves to answer one ongoing question: what kind of society do we all want to live in?
Part of the public debate is also the right to insult. To prohibit this would be a fundamental breach with the notion of free speech. Because who knows what is insulting to whom? Sometimes insults are a necessary tool to call into question power structures like religions. And sometimes they are just insulting. But you can’t have one without the other.
But there is another side to the discussion, raised by the students in the classroom, as well as by other Muslims I talked to over the past months. A healthy public debate is one in which every group has an equal place at the table. Many Muslims feel that their place is far less than equal. They feel they lack the capacity to respond to insults, to take part in the debate. So when do insults become so one-sided and frequent they can be considered bullying?
Valid questions, and questions I could not immediately answer. But the purpose of meeting with these students wasn’t to provide definitive answers. It was to explain my perspective, as a cartoonist, and for me to understand their perspective. In understanding each other’s view we find common ground. And where we find common ground, the debate can continue.
We’re always excited when we can welcome a new cartoonist from a country where we had none before. And some countries are more special than others. So we’re absolutely thrilled that Arwa Moukbel, a 26-year old female cartoonist from Yemen has joined Cartoon Movement.
Being a cartoonist in Yemen is hard, and Arwa has not been able to publish her work in national media because of the limited freedom of press. She does publish her work on Facebook (in Arabic) and we are very happy to provide her with a means to reach an international audience.