This year, Cartoon Movement is partnering with film festival About Freedom, taking place on May 5th in Breda, the Netherlands. In the run-up to the festival, we're asking our cartoonists to illustrate five perspectives on freedom:
Imprisoned by fear of crime/criminality.
The meaning of freedom becomes truly apparent when you experience oppression.
Freedom is living without fear of attacks or arrests.
A traumatic experience can keep you captive long after you we're subjected to the experience.
Your own problems in life can get in the way of your freedom.
More and more Italian artists find their way to our platform (if you're reading this, and you're a cartoonist not from Italy, please consider joining Cartoon Movement, so we can keep 'international' in our masthead), but we can never refuse quality. Although Lorenzo Conti is still a student at the Officina B5 Academy of Illustration in Rome, the quality of his work makes him more than qualified to join our network of professional artists.
7Days is a weekly newspaper in the Netherlands for young readers aged between 12 and 18. This month, the newspaper has been restyled, and a new feature is a weekly political cartoon on the comics page, which we will provide.
Input for the restyling of the newspaper came from polling the readers about their wishes. Surprisingly, one of the things the readers missed was a political cartoon. We're delighted to cater to the next generation of newspaper readership, and hope we can keep them interested in political cartoons.
Our first cartoon in 7Days was Korean War Threat by Marian Kamensky.
Liza Donnelly is a cartoonist for The New Yorker; her cartoons also appear on Forbes.com and Women's eNews.org. We meet in Caen at the 3rd International Cartoonists Festival, where we talk about women and cartoons.
I wrote a book titled Funny Ladies, which is about the history of cartoonists who are women in the New Yorker magazine. It spans from 1925 to the present, and there actually were women cartoonists in the first issue in 1925. So I've done a lot of research on that topic, and I have been involved with women cartoonists around the world as well. Reading about why there aren't more women cartoonists, and also reading about humor and gender, I can say that it's a complicated question. There isn't one answer.
First of all, there have been very few role models for women to want to become a cartoonist. Secondly, women are often raised in a culture, American culture as well as other cultures, to not be funny. To be funny, to be the jokester or humorist, has traditionally been a man's job. Also, women are raised in many cultures to be the peacemaker, to make everybody happy. And humor is often ridicule, poking fun at other people, even if it is a friendly and loving kind of poking. This is not something women have been raised to do.
Another reason is that, historically, editors have been men. It's not that they say 'I do not want a woman cartoonist', but they may not understand her perspective as well as they would understand the perspective from a man. And they may not see it as important.
I have heard you say that in the past, there were women cartoonists, like in the first issue of the New Yorker in 1925, but also before that, when women fought for the right to vote. Do you think there is a lack of causes for women in the US to rally around?
There's plenty of reasons for women in the US to draw cartoons with all the attacks, particularly local, on women's rights. But of course women draw cartoons about everything, are interested in all political issues; I and other women don’t draw cartoons just about women’s issues. The women who created cartoons for US Suffrage in the 1910’s did have a cause, and after the vote was won, many of those women stopped drawing political cartoons, oddly. I am passionate about global women’s rights, so I focus a certain percentage of what I draw on that.
Is there a difference in motivation between men and women when it comes to making cartoons?
I've taught cartooning to students aged anywhere between 6 to 15, and you can see little girls more often draw to please others, to make others happy. Boys draw for their own interest, or to show their male friends how funny they can be. I'm generalizing, but there is an interesting divide. This may be, and probably is, cultural conditioning.
Humor is, or can be, an aggressive and dominating activity, particularly something like stand-up comedy. And I think you can sort of talk about cartoons in the same breath. A comic is standing on the stage, and he's got control of the audience. Women have not been raised to be like that, to exert that kind of control.
Why do you think it's important that we get more women to become political cartoonists?
Don't you think we should have cartoons from everybody, both genders and all races? That would only increase the perspective of what's going on in the world. The other thing I'd like to talk about is something that I also cover in my TED talk Drawing on humor for change. Although women don't necessarily draw differently than men, there perhaps may be a perspective from women that might differ from the perspective from men. And if it is a different perspective, then we need to hear about it. In most cultures, women are the care-givers, the ones that raise the children and pass on tradition. It is their job to know the rules of the culture they live in, and they know more intimately what's going on in that culture.
"Once you open up the standards for what is a good cartoon, you're going to get different people. Not just white men."
So this points to possibly two different kinds of cartooning. There is the political cartooning that's about major events, about world leaders, governments and laws, about conflict and war. About “big” issues. Some cartoonists can possibly contribute a different kind of cartoon, bringing attention to what's going on the ground. What's happening with individuals in a society—traditions, families and relations between men and women. It's often important to know these details in order to help make things better.
That ties in with the next question: why do you think political cartoons are important?
I think cartoons increase the dialogue about what's going on in the world. And particularly international cartoons, that often don't have words, can talk to other cultures and show what is happening. Take Africa, for instance; I am not as familiar with events in Africa as I should be. But if I see a cartoon by a Nigerian cartoonist, I know that it's only one perspective, but it does give me an idea about what going on and I can go read more about it. So cartoons increase communication, and show us our humanity. We all share the same worries, desires and hopes.
Over the last two decades, have you seen an increase in women cartoonists?
I think there is an increase, but it might be more global than in the United States. Although in the US I think there are more women involved in doing webcomics. But that's not surprising because there aren't many outlets for cartoonists. Newspapers are dying, and the New Yorker is one of the last places where you can do the type of cartoons I do.
When I got into the New Yorker in 1979, my editor at the time was Lee Lorenz, and I interviewed him for my book Funny Ladies. He actually brought in a number of women cartoonists, myself, Nurit Karlin, who is an Israeli woman, Roz Chast and Victoria Roberts. In the interview, I asked him why. He said he was not looking for women cartoonists, he was looking for different ways to express humor. The editor before him had a more narrow concept of what a cartoon should be.
A New Yorker cartoon doesn't have to be a picture with a caption; it could be an ephemeral, weird and wacky kind of humor, like the work of Roz Chast, quietly political like the work of Nurit Karlin, or slice-of-life type cartoons by Victoria Roberts, where the humor is not all that obvious.
Once you open up the standards for what is a good cartoon, you're going to get different people. Not just white men. But still, in 2013, the New Yorker only has around eight women cartoonists, out of a pool of about 50 regular contributor cartoonists.
Caen, in Lower Normandy, France. Between 8 and 13 April, 23 cartoonists from 11 countries met here to discuss taboos, censorship, the differences in humor between countries, and the future of the profession. The event is organized and hosted by Le Mémorial de Caen, a museum dedicated to the memory of the invasion of Normandy in 1944, World War 2, and the Cold War, but also to freedom in general.
This 3rd edition was less a festival, and more a meeting of minds, with daily debates and plenty of time in between to come together to discuss editorial cartoons. The central question: 'Can we really say all we want to say?' Cartoons are a reflection of society, and as such, they are bound to the context and culture of a society. This means a type of censorship exists, even in free societies. If one compares France and the Unites States in term of humor, what is acceptable in France would be unpublishable in the US. The work of Berth and Jiho, two French cartoonists that were present, would for instance be difficult to publish outside of France.
What becomes apparent on an international event of this kind, is how many kinds of cartoons there are. The humor of French cartoonists in often hard and confronting, while cartoonists from other countries use more subtle ways to make their point. See, for instance, this cartoon reacting to the bomb explosions in Boston by Liza Donnely, an American cartoonist (also present in Caen) who has mastered a quiet reflective form of cartoons.
In free societies, there are two main kinds of censorship: self-censorship and censorship by the editor. The editor can kill a cartoon because he thinks it will offend readers or advertisers and therefore he will lose subscribers or ad income. Self-censorship applies when an artist doesn't do a particular cartoon because he knows it will probably not be published. Editorial cartoonists work in a market of supply and demand, so the question is whether this really is censorship or just business (or maybe both). The one place where cartoonists can publish anything is of course the internet, but cartoonists (like any other person) have bills to pay and mostly focus on making work that will generate income.
There is a third, and more insidious form of censorhip present in society today: to begin lawsuits against cartoonists and newspapers that publish an offending cartoon. Fines, but also just the legal fees involved in going to court, can put publications that do not have deep pockets out of business.
The Festival featured the first showing of Fini de Rire (No Laughing Matter), a documentary that explores the boundaries of freedom of expression through cartoonists and their cartoons. The story takes place in Israel, Palestine, Germany, Tunisia,France, Belgium and the United States, and asks the following central question: where does freedom of expression stand today? The documentary will be aired (with French subtitling) by Arte on May 7 at 22:40 (CEST). We hope there will be a lot of interest from other TV stations to air the documentary as well. It is a challenge to present the difficult issue of taboo and censorship in such a way that is interesting to watch for 90 minutes. Director Olivier Malivoisin has acclomplished this, turning a series of interviews into an engaging story with broad appeal.
The TV documentary is coupled to a webdoc that uses testimonies from cartoonists from all four corners of the globe to create a world map of taboos and barriers to the freedom of expression in the 21st century. The map is intended to be an updatable and sustainable tool which maps freedom of expression and taboos around the world. The webdoc is available in French, German and English. Cartoon Movement is official partner of the webdoc, and we'll do our best to help promote it. One of the most interesting features of the webdoc is the button 'themes'; if you press this, the world map shows the different subject that are censored in different parts of the world.
In addition to all the talking, the festival also featured cartooning. The most interesting even was perhaps drawing cartoons on a section of the Berlin Wall. This section was brought from Germany to be placed in the entrance hall of the Memorial, and cartoonists were invited to leave their mark on the wall.
Cartoons on the Berlin Wall - check the full photo set on our Facebook page.
Cartooning is a solitary profession. These events are important because they offer the connection between the cartoonist and their audience. France has a strong tradition of cartoons and also of cartoon events, such as RIDEP and St. Just le Martel; what makes the Festival at Caen extra special is that there is a lot of time and space for informal discussions between artists. At Cartoon Movement, we believe it is vital for the future of cartooning that cartoonists come together to discuss what editorial cartoons contribute to society. The fate of our work is mostly decided by editors and, ultimately, the public, but it important to have a continuing debate on why we are relevant.