An Editorial Artist on Perseverance

Interview by Emily Diamond from projectcovid19.org with Brazilian cartoonist Thiago Lucas

As the death toll from the pandemic mounted in Brazil, I wanted to make sure the International Pandemic Art Archives had work from Brazil. I happened upon the work of Thiago Lucas. This article came about through a series of email exchanges. –E.D.

Coronavirus__thiago_lucas

I have been in the habit of drawing since I was a child. I remember drawing daily at home, at my grandparent’s house, and also at school. I made the drawings on paper, in sketchbooks and even on the wall. I used a pencil, pen and crayons. I remember that my first encounter with drawings of humor, caricatures and cartoons was in an art textbook that had a chapter on graphic art. Then a friend showed me a folder full of newspaper clippings with cartoons by artists from my hometown, Recife. It was love at first sight! Since that moment, I had a dream for my life—to become a cartoonist and illustrator. From then on I stopped drawing things like houses and landscapes, and dedicated myself entirely to graphic humor and editorial art. The need to make this art has always been to face the abandonment, inequality and abuse in Brazil, and also in the world.

At the age of 15, I joined ACAPE (Association of Cartoonists of Pernambuco), an organization that brought together renowned artists and beginners like me on a weekly basis. It was through ACAPE that I had the opportunity to do my first paid work as a cartoonist, made cartoons at events, and published for the first time in the Jornal do Commercio, in a section called, Games of Errors.

The concepts and ideas for the art sometimes suddenly appear, in other cases I do a study and analysis of events through reading on the topic, and then I use pencil and paper to write my reflections and sketch ideas. However, if I look closely, even those ideas that suddenly appeared to me are the result of an analysis and reflection that is already taking place in my brain. The editorial artist’s job is the constant observation and analysis of the objective and subjective reality of society, this incessant search for interpreting the political, economic and social aspects of the world is automatic in our daily lives. Doing the art can be cathartic.

A_luta_pela_liberdade_de_imprensa__thiago_lucasThe Power of satire, by Lucas, 2020

OBLOMOVISMO E MACHISMO_THIAGO LUCAS-01Violence against women, by Lucas, 2020

The current pandemic caused by the coronavirus has been a kind of magnifying glass that made the injustices, social inequalities and abuses of political authorities more evident and visceral. The effects of the health crisis we are going through are very unequal. The poorest end up suffering even more, as they don’t have the same sanitary conditions and basic health care as a person who is richer. It’s a situation of great injustice. In addition, my country has a fascist President of the Republic in power, Bolsonaro, who is completely devoid of empathy and social sensitivity, dealing with public health issues with complete disregard.

In addition to specific public health issues, we face abuses of power by the Brazilian judiciary, which took sides in pursuing and revoking the political rights of former President Lula on the eve of a presidential election, in an evident attack on democratic institutions. We also had the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, which was a real horror show in the Brazilian parliament, where the power-hungry political class carried out a political coup by taking a democratically elected president out of power. We are going through a health and a democratic crisis.

1Brazilian President Bolsonaro as the source of fake news in the pandemic, Lucas, 2020

For me, there are the technical issues of doing the art, but the greater difficulties are more concentrated on having to portray themes of great suffering and injustices for the less favored, such as prejudices, violence, and social inequalities. The editorial artist needs to expose the insides of social ills, and this activity of diving into this ocean of pain, suffering and blood is a task that leaves us very moved and breathless. In some moments I have also had some fears for safety, as in a work that I did portraying prejudice on the part of public security agents. I’m grateful for the support of my mother, aunt, father, grandparents and friends. They helped me realize my dream of speaking out through art. In the hardest moments, I try to put the social function of the artist first, to be aware that social injustices need to be denounced by art. I believe that a word that expresses well the exercise of the artist's role is perseverance, because we face daily difficulties, resistance, crises, censorship, and attacks. These make the perfect storm for our journey to be arduous and full of stones and thorns, but as time goes by our skin starts to become hard and resistant to the scratches and wounds.

2Facing censorship, Lucas, 2020

Public health issues have always been the subject of some artists and cartoonists, we can see it in editorial art from past centuries. Public health, social justice and social inequality are related themes and they are the artist's raw materials. We cannot deny that when we face public health crises, such as epidemics and pandemics, the focus is more intensely on these issues, because public health crises brings with them other related issues, such as social injustices and political unrest, for example. In the end, our reality is a great kaleidoscope of multifaceted experiences and realities. As an example, the motivation for the work "Negligence" was the neglect of the Brazilian authorities in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In Manaus, in northern Brazil, patients died of suffocation due to lack of oxygen equipment, an enormous tragedy.

3Negligence, by Thiago Lucas, 2020

I have a constant concern and anguish about the future of the arts and artists. This is because unfortunately we live in a society that has many individuals from the most diverse social spheres who despise art and come to fight it. This is expressed in the persecution of artists, attacks on freedom of expression, and lack of government aid to artistic actions. There is also the drop in the number of readers of books, newspapers and magazines, leading to a drop in the number of opportunities and vacancies in the labor market. In short, this is a set of consequences that generate a hostile environment for artistic work.

We live in dark times, where culture and democracy are constantly attacked. In this context, art acts as one of the strongholds of resistance against authoritarianism that contaminates our society. Editorial art and caricatures are artistic expressions that can use humor as an instrument of criticism to contest the reality promoted by those in power, whether that power is political, economic, social or cultural. So let's move forward, with courage and perseverance, cultivating a critical and engaged art.


Three-finger salute in support of Myanmar protests

Myanmar protests - ADENECartoon by Anne Derenne


A three-fingered salute that originated in the Hunger Games film series has been adopted by activists from Thailand to Myanmar, becoming a symbol of resistance and solidarity for democracy movements across south-east Asia.

UK cartoonists have been drawing Three-finger salute cartoons in support of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association. The UK Professional Cartoonists' Organisation (PCO) has been sharing a lot of them on Twitter. We share a few of them here. Visit our cartoon collection to see more cartoons about the militiary coup in Myanmar.

 


10 cartoons for social justice

20 February is the World Day of Social Justice, an international day recognizing the need to promote social justice, which includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections. The coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the growth of the gap between rich and poor. The poor not only lack money, they often also lack job security, work safety and access to healthcare. To do out bit in raising awareness, here are 10 powerful cartoons calling for social justice.

Enrico Bertuccioli draws a colorful but haunting image of capitalism, a faceless monster that leaves many destitute. Can capitalism and social justice coexist?

Faceless_economy__enrico_bertuccioli

 

Because the economy tends to favor the rich. Even during the pandemic, the richest people were affected the least and gained even more wealth. Cartoon by Musa GUMUS.

Economy

 

And Syrian cartoonist Morhaf Youssef has an even more grim interpretation of the relationship between the haves and the have-nots.

2588-210115 Poverty (Youssef)_EDIT_2

 

Turkish cartoonist Kürşat Zaman visualized the daily outlook of too many people around the globe.

 

Kürşat Zaman - Economic Crisis

 

And even though Gatis Sluka has a funny take on it, being poor is hard work and very stressful, with life expectancy for poor people being years shorter than for rich people.

Working_hard__gatis_sluka

 

The current system allows the wealthy to accumulate more and more wealth, while denying a basic income to many. Cartoon by Timo Essner.

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And for some groups, like immigrants, it's even harder to get a fair chance. Cartoon by Galym Boranbayev.

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In many countries, there is a class of working poor: people who do have jobs (and work long hours), but who still do not make enough money to make ends meet. Cartoon by Mahnaz Yazdani.

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When the government does decide to spend money on the economy, it rarely does anything to solve inequality. Cartoon by Tom Curry.

Socialism__tom_curry

 

No matter how you look at it, the rich keep getting richer, also during a global pandemic. Cartoon by Tjeerd Royaards.

201216 Inequality

 

In the end, social justice is about all of us getting a fair share of the pie, as Carlos David Fuentes aptly illustrates in this image.

Unequal__carlos_david_fuentes

 


Cartoons that incite violence

How_racist_cartoons_helped_ignite_a_massacre_alt_800A racist cartoon that ran in the News and Observer on September 27, 1898 via Wikimedia Commons

Here at Cartoon Movement, we often talk about the power of cartoons to make an impact, to address the wrongs of society, and to inspire change. But, to quote another type of comic, 'with great power comes great responsibility'. Cartoons are powerful tools to address injustice, but because they rely heavily on visual exaggeration and stereotypes, they can also be used to spread hatred and reinforce existing prejudices.

JSTOR Daily tells the story of how a cartoonist helped to incite a massacre with racist cartoons in Wilmington (USA) in 1898. The cartoons constructed political meaning and, to some extent, social reality for readers.

Read the full story here.

It's important to acknowledge the dark side of political cartoons, precisely because they can have such an impact. In the present day, we also need be alert for stereotypes and visual imagery that justifies or propagates racism, sexism, inequality, vilifies the 'other' or calls for violence. 


Cartoons and science in the 18th and 19th century

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For those interested in the history of political cartoons, Nature has published an interesting interview with a historian about cartoons from the 18th and 19th century that provide snapshots of social and political debates around the emergence of modern research. The conclusion shouldn't be surprising: pictures are an extremely effective way of conveying a message.

The above illustration by James Gillray from 1802 explores fears about using cowpox to vaccinate against smallpox. The people in the image are sprouting cows on their bodies, reflecting the fear at the time of putting a substance from another animal in your body. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Read the full interview here.


It's who you know

In partnership with the Centre of Public Authority and International Development (CPAID) of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), we are producing a series of six comics on public authority in different countries across Africa.

This comic, based on research by Dr Patrycja Stys and drawn by Moses Kas, focuses on two women of different social status in a small town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). How do they access healthcare, justice and education? As one of the women says: It's not about how much you have, it's who you know.

You can read the full comic below or download the PDF here.

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