The infamous Danish Muhammad cartoons, published in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten on September 30th, 2005, led to protests, riots, and over 100 deaths around the world. The discussion that followed about the balance between free speech and incitement in cartoons, between ridicule and bigotry, led to the creation of Cartooning For Peace, an organization of international editorial cartoonists dedicated to promoting free expression and "mutual respect between people of different faiths or cultures."
The Gaddafi era in Libya has finally come to an end. Have a look back at all the cartoons we've publised featuring the megalomaniacal tyrant in our collection "Gaddafi, the Beloved Leader."
The man is still on the run, so maybe we'll have to add a few other cartoons to this collection when and if his fate is finally determined.
If you've ever been to Port-au-Prince, you will probably have noticed the painted murals that grace various walls and buildings throughout the city. Crammed in between stretches of wall dedicated to Digicel (the omnipresent telecom company) and political messages sprayed haphazardly on various surfaces (guerrilla campaigning often paid for by politicians), these big mural paintings stand out because of their quality and their message.
They are created by graffiti artist Jerry Rosembert (artist name just 'Jerry'). Like his well-known fellow artist Banksy, Jerry uses public space to spread a message about the problems of society. While we were in Haiti, we met up with him at Hotel Oloffson for an informal talk about his work, his vision, and his ambitions.
What stands out in Jerry's work is that is predominantly positive. Where Banksy is an outspoken critic of war, corruption, greed and pollution, Jerry has adopted a more positive message. Many of his murals show the love for Haiti and the Haitian people. The reason for this, he says, is that, amid all the problems that face Haiti, he wants to offer the people a message of hope. In a country that has a history of violent politics, Jerry is reluctant to let politics enter his work. Rather, he tries to create beautiful paintings that will remind all Haitians, both rich and poor, that they share the same country, and with it, the same problems. According to Jerry, the only way to let the country move forward is to unite all Haitians to work towards a common goal. No easy feat in a country where the divide between rich and poor is truly enormous.
Slideshow of Jerry's work
Although we could understand his reasoning, we (being editorial cartoonists) do feel Jerry's work could use a dose of social criticism. In Port-au-Prince there are as many empty walls as there are problems worth drawing about. Although he believes making beautiful murals means his work lasts longer (some of his more critical pieces have been painted over), and will thus have more of an impact, he is planning to do more critical work in the future, focusing on the tent camps, the lack of education and the problems of rebuilding.
At the moment, Jerry is the only graffiti artist doing 'editorial' murals of this kind. The main reason: it's dangerous. Jerry says that the Haitian police force has a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy that effectively deters people from taking up brush and spray can. Jerry makes most of his work at night, using the headlights of his car to provide the light to work (street lights are very scarce in Port-au-Prince). For his next project(s), he not only wants to make work that's more critical, but also work that is bigger. In order to do this safely, he plans to obtain permission for the surfaces he will paint on, and also inform the police beforehand.
Jerry's work is widely known, but Jerry himself tries to stay out of the public limelight. In two years time, he says, he might make himself known to the public. In the meantime, he prefers to visit the site of his murals on the morning after he made it, gauging the response of the public to his work incognito. He may not be known by most Haitians, he is known in the NGO community, and he makes most of his his income by painting murals in camps, at schools and community centers. One of his next gigs? Doing a mural for Digicel...
Photo courtesy of CNN
While the world's media focus is on Libya and the downfall of Gaddafi, let us not forget that editorial cartoonists elsewhere are struggling for freedom. Well-known Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat was brutally attacked by masked men, who broke his hands (to stop him drawing) and left him on the road outside Damascus. A stark reminder of the dangers cartoonists can face, but also of how they are feared by oppressors.
After their adventures in Haiti, Cartoon Movement's editorial team is taking a well-deserved vacation. Because of this, Cartoon Movement will be 'closed' for a week, from August 19 until August 25. Of course the website and all the content will still be available, but no new cartoons will be published during this period. On Friday August 26 we'll be back to business as usual.
In what could become a major development in the ongoing Israel/Palestine debate, the UN General Assembly is preparing to go ahead with a vote next month to officially recognize Palestine along the 1967 borders.
Many Palestinians are working in other ways to push the issue to the forefront of people's minds. On a recent trip to Israel and Palestine, Sarah Glidden (who previously contributed to Cartoon Movement with "The Waiting Room"), met up with Khaled Jarrar, who blends art and activism by marking passports with a stamp of his own creation reading "State Of Palestine."
Today we've published the comic Sarah's made about Khaled Jarrar and his project. Go read it here.
The website Truthout published an article this week by Adam Bessie discussing comics journalism, with input from a number of our contributors, namely Sarah Glidden and Dan Archer.
Thirty-something Brooklynite, self-professed news-junkie and author Sarah Glidden laments that Iraq has become "yesterday's news," which editors now treat like yesterday's bread - a stale subject. While the troops' boots remain on the ground, foreign media bureaus - what's left of them - are in exodus and, thus, the continuing occupation of Iraq has steadily retreated from the headlines and into the backwaters of the paper, lost to microscopic print somewhere near a full page Macy's spread, the final destination before disappearing entirely. Glidden couldn't stand to be an idle bystander, watching from the safe distance of Internet Explorer as the story of the Iraqi occupation slowly died, the stories of refugees fleeing the war-torn nation consigned to footnotes in a future history text to be ignored by future college students. [Keep Reading]
The first part of the Haiti project (the trip itself) ended last week, and the traveling party has returned safely to San Francisco, Portland and Amsterdam respectively. So what's next?
Well, we have some cool things lined up, although some patience will be required. The second week of January 2012 marks the two-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, and we will have an entire week of cartoons, comics and videos related to Haiti at Cartoon Movement to mark the occasion. On January 12, we will publish the first chapter of the 75-page comic about life in Haiti that will be written and drawn in the coming months.
The comic will be divided in four chapters, each about 15 to 20 pages, which we will publish in monthly installments. The whole comic will be drawn by Chevelin Pierre, and three chapters will be written by journalists (Pharres Jerome, Robenson Geffrard and Roberson Alphonse). These three journalists all work as investigative reporters for the only major daily Haitian newspaper, Le Nouvelliste. Subjects they will investigate include the tent camps, the role of NGOs and aid money, and the structural problems of Haitian politics. The fourth chapter is a little different. It will be written by a Haitian writer, Dominique Batraville. Tentatively titled 'Aftershocks', this chapter will deal with the aftermath of the earthquake for the Haitian people in a more personal way.
Alongside the comic, we will also be publishing the videos we worked on while in Haiti. These include a 'making of', in which the efforts that went into making this project happen are chronicled, and a portrait of Haitian cartoonists. A third video that is in the works is about the media landscape in Haiti.
Additionally, Matt and Caroline are working a a joint video/comic project about the plight of the gay community in Haiti, which promises to be pretty cool. Matt will also be working on a longer comics journalism piece on his experiences, set to run in January as well.
As an added bonus, we hope to get Philippe Dodard to do one of his amazing full-page cartoons about the current situation in Haiti. We also plan to have all the other Haitian cartoonists do cartoons about Haitian issues to be published during our Haiti-week.
All in all, looks like Cartoon Movement will be off to a great start in 2012. This is the first time ever that a project of this kind has been done. With the end result, 75 pages of comic journalism drawn and written by Haitians, we hope te set a precedent. We want to see more of these projects (and hopefully be involved), not only because we believe in the power of comics journalism, but also because doing it this way gives a voice to the people actually living there, instead of having Western reporters interpret these voices.
By Jen Sorensen
Why are there so few female political cartoonists? I’ve been asked that question many times over the years. It’s OK, I don’t mind. We’re something of a rare breed. Exact statistics are difficult to find—even the national group Association of American Editorial Cartoonists can only estimate the national number of political cartoonists, let alone break them down by gender, ethnicity, or class. But to give you a rough idea, of the association’s 185 current regular members, only 15 are women. I’m one of them.
My short (and admittedly Zen-like) explanation is that there are so few female political cartoonists largely because there are so few female political cartoonists. Drawing cartoons and comics has traditionally been a guy thing—a somewhat nerdy guy thing, but a guy thing nonetheless. Without role models who look like you, or friends with similar interests, any activity becomes less inviting. It might not even cross your mind as a possibility.
But when did political cartooning first become the province of dudes? Patriot dude Ben Franklin is widely credited with the first American political cartoon: The famous “Join or Die” drawing of the chopped-up snake representing the 13 original colonies. In the 1870s, a dude named Thomas Nast became the first major editorial page cartoonist, followed by 20th-century dudely doodlers such as Bill Mauldin and Herbert “Herblock” Block. In 1915, Edwina Dumm became the first American non-dude to work full-time as an editorial cartoonist, a remarkable feat considering women didn’t win the right to vote until 1920. Given that women were deemed irrational, not expected to hold intellectual jobs, and certainly not supposed to have political opinions, the skewed demographics of the profession don’t seem all that mysterious.
A more contemporary problem comes in the form of profitable and supposedly progressive web publications like The Huffington Post that make it a policy not to pay for content. This business model presumes contributors have other sources of income; paying in “exposure” instead. If this setup becomes the industry standard, those without ample resources, especially women and minorities, will simply not be able to afford to survive as political cartoonists.
The challenges faced by female cartoonists parallel those of female op-ed writers. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus recently suggested that the dearth of female op-ed writers in newspapers is largely due to the imposition of “our own glass ceiling” as opposed to editors’ sexism. Women need to show more chutzpah, she argues. We must close the “cockiness gap” between ourselves and the great hordes of brashly bloviating males.
As Katha Pollitt has rightly noted, however, there’s an abundance of highly qualified and willing female writers whose numbers are not reflected on the commentary pages of major newspapers. The op-ed pages of the Post feature two women and 23 men, despite the fact that plenty of women write about politics and current events. Clearly, forces beyond “our own glass ceilings” are at work. In the case of political cartoonists, however, there aren’t quite so many women waiting in the wings.
This is not to cut Marcus any slack. Her argument fails to address the often subtle ways in which gender inequality works. If there is a cockiness gap, it might have something to do with ye olde double standard that ambitious women are perceived as you-know-whats. To be fair, Marcus does facetiously refer to “a certain unbecoming arrogance” required of outspoken women, but she paradoxically blames women for not displaying it.
Media coverage of cartoonists works the same way. The Columbia Journalism Review recently interviewed political cartoonists and editors about their opinion of the controversial New Yorker cover; they spoke with nine men and zero women.
So how did I buck the trend? It’s hard to say. I do know I recognized the unfairness of gender roles from a very early age, even though nobody slipped a copy of The Feminine Mystique into my playpen. My parents did indulge my tomboyish tendencies, though, buying me reams of comics and copies of MAD Magazine. As teachers, they also valued education and creativity, and were fully supportive of my round-the-clock cartooning habit. There wasn’t much else to do where we lived; as far as I was concerned, drawing comics was how I entertained myself.
While in college in the mid-1990s, I was invited to submit to an all-female comic anthology called Action Girl. This was my professional debut. Thanks in part to Action Girl, I was motivated to publish my own comic book after graduating. The result: Slowpoke Comix #1, a collection of short stories that were precursors to my weekly strip. One marked the debut of my character Drooly Julie, a randy femme with a penchant for stubbly metalheads. It was only after the 2000 election that my work took a sharp political turn, as did that of many other cartoonists. As I crossed this threshold, I wasn’t thinking much about breaking gender barriers. I was just freaked out by the country’s sudden takeover by wackadoos.
Over the years, my work appeared in more and more places, often alternative newsweeklies. These papers tended to be more progressive-minded than mainstream media, and I never got the sense that I was going up against a wall of chauvinism. I do get the sense, however, that some progressive publications don’t try as hard as they could to diversify their mastheads. As Women In Media and News founder Jennifer Pozner puts it, one of the biggest obstacles appears to be time: It can take longer and require more effort to look beyond the familiar or entrenched stables of male cartoonists and editorial writers.
Despite these occasional frustrations, the past decade suggests that the situation is improving. If my favorite comic convention, the Small Press Expo in Maryland, is any indication, there are more women than ever on both sides of the exhibitor tables. To invoke the flip side of my Zen koan: The more female cartoonists there are, the more there will be.
Jen Sorensen draws the weekly cartoon Slowpoke. Her most recent collection is Slowpoke: One Nation, Oh My God!
This piece has been reprinted from Campus Progress.