Abdelghani Dahdouh is a cartoonist from Morocco. How work has been published in several Moroccan newspapers. He is also general coordinator of the National Festival of Caricature, an annual event in Chefchaouen, Morocco.
Gary Waters joined us in December, but we haven’t had a chance to introduce him until now. Gary is an illustrator living in France. His work has appeared in the Wall Street journal, the New York Times and the European Financial Review and many other publications.
Image by John Kennedy
One year ago, 11 people were murdered in Paris in an attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo. Murdered because of cartoons. Lines drawn on paper; lines some people did not agree with. A senseless and tragic attack, and yet more proof of the power that images can have.
Since 2010 Cartoon Movement provides a platform for cartoonists from all over the world to share their images. Images that make you laugh, images that sometimes provoke and offend. But always with the goal to make you think. This year, we felt it was more important than ever to give our cartoonists the freedom to publish cartoons on topics they felt the need to draw about. In 2015, the Democracy & Media Foundation gave us the financial means to publish 100 cartoons this year. No strings attached.
Our goal is to to publish cartoons that show different views and perspectives. We think freedom of expression is best served by a free public debate. A debate in which there is room for different opinions. And cartoons are great at showing different opinions.
This is what our platform is best at: provide space for cartoonists to publish. Many of our cartoonists live and work in countries where they are not free to draw everything. Cartoon Movement offers them a platform to work that they would otherwise not be able to publish, to show this to an international audience.
And we had some great cartoons this year.
Such as a cartoon of the Burmese cartoonist Kyaw Thu Yein. This year, Burma (aka Myanmar) held free general elections for the first time in 25 years. We ran a project to put the spotlight on Burmese cartoonists and give them space publish their cartoons with us in the run-up to these historic elections. Thu Yein was one of these cartoonists : without text, this cartoon shows how a (military) dictator fears the power of the people. A cartoon that will be understood by anyone anywhere in the world.
Being a cartoonist is not easy. Often cartoonists are far from free to draw what they want. If it's not the government that is threatening to censor their work, there is always the danger that extremists (religious or otherwise) will take offense to a particular cartoon. Osama Hajjaj from Jordan experienced this when he made a cartoon about women and Islam. It is in many ways it's a fairly innocent cartoon. We see two families having fun on the beach. But in the second panel, the wife of one family is forced to watch while other are having fun in the water; religious rules do not allow her to go swimming with her family.
Osama received death threats from ISIS because of this cartoon. His response: 'Those cowards will not stop me. I still believe that freedom of thought and expression is a human right. "The immense popularity of this cartoon shows how powerful this medium is and why the freedom of it is a human right.' We couldn't agree more, and so does our audience, as this was our most popular cartoon of the year.
Recently, another threat emerged from an unexpected place. Osama's employer (he works in advertising, in addition to his work as a cartoonist) got wind of his work as a political cartoonist. The company wants to force him to sign a statement in which he promises not to make 'political' drawings anymore. At present it seems that Osama will need to quit his job to continue drawing. Together with other organizations (such as Cartooning for Peace) we are looking how we can best help him. Because we believe it is essential that his voice continues to be heard.
Another cartoon that is worth mentioning, was made following the drowning of the three-year-old Syrian refugee boy Aylan. Many cartoonists made a cartoon featuring this iconic image, but few did it as well as Rafat Alkhateeb. This also was one of our more popular cartoons of the year that too much is taken up by other media. One of our goals is to provide a platform for a new generation of cartoonists like 26 year-old Rafat. We can offer hime the opportunity to develop his talent for a large audience.
Giving space to young and experienced cartoonists from all over the world. Offer space for different perspectives. And providing space for discussion. With our audience more than doubling in 2015 in comparison with previous years, we can certainly say our cartoons have had an impact. And will hopefully continue to have impact in 2016.
Niels Bo Bojesen is the first editorial cartoonist from Denmark to join Cartoon Movement. A graduate of the Danish School of Design (he also attended the School of Visual Arts/Department of Media Arts, New York), he illustrates children’s books and produces daily editorial cartoons for Danish newspapers. He is a member of the Danish Association of Editorial Cartoonists/the Danish Association of Journalists. Check out his website to see more of his work.
Marco De Angelis was born in Rome (Italy) in 1955. He is a cartoonist, illustrator of many children’s books, graphic designer, and professional journalist of the daily La Repubblica. He has published in over 150 newspapers in Italy and abroad since 1975. The New York Times Syndicate distributes his satirical works worldwide.
Konstantinos Tsanakas is a 28-year old cartoonist originally from Greece, now living and working in Belgium. He started working as a professional cartoonist four years ago, and currently does the Sunday cartoon for Greek newspaper TO ΧΩΝΙ. He also publishes his cartoons in Belgium, in Knack and Het Belang van Limburg.
2015 has been a year of tribute cartoons. In January, the attack on Charlie Hebdo sent shockwaves through the cartooning community and I do not know cartoonists who did not do a cartoon to pay tribute to the fallen cartoonists and to condemn the violence. Then in September a three-year old Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish shore to become an icon of the failure of Europe to deal with the refugee crisis. Again, many cartoonists (including me) felt compelled to pay homage. And one week ago today, the horrendous attacks in Paris sadly presented us with yet another opportunity to express our outrage, our support and our grief.
Cartoons can work tremendously well in expressing the emotion many of us feel in the face of incomprehensible events such as the Paris attacks. Media also realize this and have been especially quick this year to turn to cartoonists to provide visual commentary when anything big happens.
Perhaps a little too quick.
I understand the need for media to respond quickly to events; as part of the media, this is true for cartoonists as well. But in their hunger for ever more eyes, ears and clicks, I get the feeling media now expect us to have a cartoon ready within 30 minutes from the news breaking. Some cartoonists tackle this problem by publishing older work that still applies (as a cartoonists builds an archive over the years, you’d be surprised how much is reusable). Others are truly able to come up with great ideas in this very limited time-frame and produce some stunning visuals, for example the cartoon by Osama Hajjaj used to illustrate this post. But I’ve also seen a lot of bleeding Eiffel towers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for tribute cartoons. Part of the role of cartoons is to capture and summarize public opinion and a tribute cartoon does exactly that. But cartoons are also meant to offer something more: to reflect on an event, to offer commentary, to raise forgotten or uncomfortable points. And there are points to be raised in the wake of the Paris attacks. How will this terror attack impact the refugee crisis in Europe? Will Europeans become (even more) hostile towards refugees? Towards Islam? Why are the Paris attacks followed by a a global outburst of support, while attacks in other places (e.g. in Turkey in October) receive far less attention? Are some lives indeed worth more than others? And to what degree are we ourselves to blame for the terror threat on European soil by decades of meddling in the Middle East? The list goes on. Painful, uncomfortable questions, but questions that need to be asked nonetheless.
There are cartoons that attempt to raise these questions, but so far media seem to prefer bleeding Eiffel towers.