Igor Pashchenko is an award-winning cartoonist with a distinctive style. He lives in Kaliningrad, Russia.
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 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 did 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 were 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.
We’ve started an educational project for the Global Teenager Project about Children’s Rights. Cartoon Movement provides the space for schools and cartoonists to work together. Students that participate in the project upload their ideas in the form of sketches and drawings, and our cartoonists use these as inspiration to create professional cartoons.
Check out all the sketches and cartoons in our project newsroom.
After a very successful run last year, we’ve launched a new edition of our Peace & Justice project. Cartoon Movement is teaming up once again with the Hague project Peace and Justice, an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the city of The Hague to create a global debate about peace & justice that will involve editorial cartoonists and students from around the world.
Idea by Elisa Olvera and Nan, cartoon by Tomas.
The title of this year’s project is My Peace, Your Peace, to reflect how we all depend on each other to create a sustainable peace. We have to understand each other's perspective to build peace. 2015 also marks the 70th anniversary of two institutions that play (or should play) an important role in creating and maintaining peace worldwide: the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.
Students around the world contribute ideas for cartoons that reflect their perspective on peace, and our network of cartoonists turns these ideas into editorial cartoons. The best cartoons, and the ideas they are based on, will be selected for the exhibition at the end of the project. In September 2015, this exhibition will be on display in the iconic Peace Palace in The Hague. In 2016, the exhibition will travel to New York, to the headquarters of the United Nations.
Idea by Karina Steens, Kiran Ghoerbien and Sharon Baldewsingh, cartoon by Elchicotriste.
Cartoon by Manos Symeonakis.
We’ve started yet another project, similar to the one we’re doing on Data and Development. Partnering with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), we have set up a project newsroom to create cartoons for Financing the Future (March 17-18, 2015 in Accra, Ghana).
The goal of the conference is to provide fresh perspectives on global development and finance: how can international public finance best contribute to accelerating progress in development? Financing the Future will feature an exhibition of the best cartoons submitted in our newsroom. Take a look at the submissions here.
Cartoon by Fadi Abou Hassan.
Our latest cartoon project is a partnership with Data-Pop Alliance, a think tank on Big Data. The think tank was co-founded by Emmanuel Letouzé, who is also a cartoonist that contributes to our site. We have set up a project newsroom to create cartoons for the Cartagena Data Festival (April 20-22, 2015 in Colombia). The goal of the festival is to stir discussions and connections in the data (open data, big data, official statistics) and development community, to lay out the opportunities and challenges, risks and requirements, of leveraging the new data ecosystem to foster human development.
Cartoons will help foster these discussions and debates. The Cartagena Data Festival will feature an exhibition of the best cartoons submitted here. Take a look at the submissions here.
Yesterday, the Memorial de Caen decided to cancel a big cartoonist conference scheduled for April, because of safety concerns. The Memorial is a World War II museum in Normandy, France.
The Memorial has hosted a yearly meeting of French and international cartoonists for 4 years. This year, the fifth edition, would be the biggest one yet, with 44 cartoonists from all over the world coming together to discuss the profession and to remember our fallen comrades from Paris. But rising security concerns, such as more than six attempts to hack the Memorial’s website in the past month, forced Memorial director Stéphane Grimaldi to cancel the event.
Washington Post cartoonist Ann Tellies (one of the would-be attendees) writes she fully understands the reasons of the Memorial for cancelling, but is angry nonetheless:
I was angry about the cancellation because it again reminds me of the Paris murders and the senseless violence which is now a sad fact of my profession. I have said repeatedly ever since the Danish cartoon controversy in 2006 that there is no justification for violence if one is offended by a drawing. You can criticize, reject, ignore, protest, or draw your own opposing cartoon but threats and violence are not justified for any reason. Ever.
Spanish cartoonist Elchicotriste responded to the news with a cartoon, which you can see above. In his opinion, the cancellation is giving in to terrorists and thus bad news for the profession.
Personally, I am first and foremost sad that this is the new reality for cartoonists. We don't get to meet up that often, and this would have been a great opportunity to get together with cartoonists from all the corners of the globe, including several CM-members.
I do understand the decision to cancel. As host, the Memorial is responsible for the safety for 44 cartoonists. In his email, Stéphane Grimaldi writes that the meeting could only take place with far-reaching security measures. He rightly (in my opinion) asserts that this is not the spirit of these meetings.
Let’s hope this cancellation is merely a postponement, making it a very temporary victory for those who would threaten our freedom.
Oguz Gurel is the 9th cartoonist from Turkey to join Cartoon Movement. He published his first cartoon in a local newspaper in 1989. Since then, his work has won several awards and has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and websites all over the world.
Cartoonists can't agree who's to blame for the crisis in Ukraine
At their best, political cartoons can explain the most complex situations, and provide clarity by dissecting the news and exposing the inner workings of politics. But cartoons, by their nature, are the opinions of their makers. Instead of providing more clarity, these opinions sometimes only add to the complexity of an issue.
We have cartoonists from both Russia and Ukraine, and, perhaps not surprisingly, their opinions of the situation in eastern Ukraine differ quite a lot. But this debate is not limited to cartoonists from the countries involved in the conflict, and virtually every cartoonist is more or less positioned on one side of the conflict.
The cartoonists' quarrel is aptly summarized by these two cartoons. The orginal was made by Russian cartoonist Sergei Tunin; in response, Ukrainian cartoonist Oleksy Kustovsky made a few small edits to the cartoon and reposted it.
While it is very interesting to follow this visual debate, it does not provide any answers to what’s really going on, and what the true actions and motivations of all the parties involved are. Here are a couple of examples of cartoons that represent the different opinions:
Marian Kamensky from Austria leaves no room for doubt who the bad guys is.
Dutch cartoonist Tjeerd Royaards portrays Putin more as a burden than a leader for Mother Russia.
Elchicotriste from Spain sees Ukrainian president Poroshenko as a vehicle for American interests.
Moroccan artist Jalal Hajir says you can only poke a bear so much before it wakes up.