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.


Satire Talks Live - episode 6

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Tune in tonight at 6PM CET for another episode of Satire Talks Live. Social media manager Emanuele Del Rosso hosts a live chat on our Instagram channel every two weeks, talking to different cartoonists around the globe. The talks focus on satire, censorship, copyright and other issues that pertain to political cartoons. Tonight he talks to Paulo Jorge Fernandes, Auxiliar Professor at NOVA FCSH doing academic research on satire and editorial cartoons.


Interview with Jordan Cartoonist Latif Fityani

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Al Bawaba has posted an interesting Q & A with Jordan cartoonist Latif Fityani:

'Provocative is one way to describe Latif Fityani, he’s an emerging satirical artist in Jordan who digitally creates drawings or images that say something.

With that Latif doesn’t consider his work to be reaction-baiting, he describes it as attention grabbing with a purpose ---to convey an important message and make the viewer question their pre-established point of view and challenge mainstream narratives.'

Read the full interview here.

 


Cartooning in Rwanda

Ndarama_assoumani_2Ndarama Assoumani is an editorial cartoonist in Rwanda. Like many other governments around the world, the president and ruling party in Rwanda do not like to be criticized. We talk to Ndarama about his work and the dangers he encounters.

What sort of threats do you face as an editorial cartoonist in Rwanda?

To answer this, we need to look at the history of Rwanda before the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. The most popular newspaper at that time, Kangura, used satire cartoons to stereotype the (Tutsi) enemies, many of them politicians. Reports and testimonies after the genocide mentioned the cartoons as propaganda tools used to serve the perpetrators of the genocide. I'm apart from the ideology of genocide; I draw on justice and peace. It is a shame that cartoons in Rwanda are still seen in the light of the genocide. Can you imagine if someone asked me "Do you want to restore Kangura?" That would mean creating divisions between people again.

I have received several anonymous calls demanding that I stop drawing or that I remove certain cartoons, especially those that cover security, government, or other topics related to the president. I am afraid of course that something could happen to me.

Are there taboos (subjects you cannot draw about) in Rwanda? And is there outright censorship on some topics?

To write and talk about sex in public was forbidden but now television and radio cover this topic. Of course all topics related to the president are taboo. It is forbidden to write articles or use photos and documents without authorization from the Office of the President. This is an unofficial law, not documented but known by all. This restriction is applicable even to topics related to the security agencies, the police and the army.

Happy_birthday_mr_president__ndarama_assoumani
President Paul Kagame celebrates his 59th birthday on Ocober 23, 2016.

What are your favorite subjects to draw about? And do these include ‘dangerous’ topics?

I like the subjects of human rights, security and corruption, all of which are dangerous to some extent. Rwanda is placed quited high in various rankings comparing African countries. This means that relatively safe place, with little corruption. It is not true! Some reports are pure falsehood. I think as an editorial cartoonist it is my job to never give up, even if there are very dangerous topics that need to be addressed.

How is the economic situation in Rwanda; is it possible to make a living as a cartoonist?

There are two newspapers that pay cartoonists; among them is the one that I work for as a cartoonist. I earn a minimum of 200 euros and a maximum of 400 euros per month. My income is laughable; being a cartoonist is not a desirable job here. Cartoon Movement helps me to continue my work, giving me the support of an international community of cartoonists.

African_union_plans_to_introduce_single_passport__ndarama_assoumani
African Union launches one passport for Africa.

Are you positive about the future of editorial cartooning in Rwanda?

Everything is possible; the development must begin with basic skills. There is no initiative in Rwanda to help cartoonists in their skills and activities. Learning fine arts does not mean that you necessarily become an editorial cartoonist, but the government should understand the importance of freedom of expression. At present, many cartoonists shy away from politics. They become illustrators instead, choosing to draw subjects related to leisure and entertainment.


Between Censorship and Satire: Cartooning in Turkey

Turkey is in turmoil. Numerous terrorist attacks have taken a bloody toll in the last year and an attempted coup has only strengthened the power of Erdogan, who seems to be on a mission to force everyone who doesn't agree with him into submission, including cartoonists. We talk to four of our Turkish cartoonists, Menekse Cam, Emrah Arikan, Halit Kurtulmus and Oguz Gurel, to find out what it's like to be a satirist Turkey these days.

What’s the situation like for cartoonists at the moment in Turkey? Do papers still print (critical) cartoons or is there a lot of censorship?

Menekse: Unfortunately there is censorship, fear and all kinds of pressure. At present, cartooning in Turkey is really more dangerous than ever.  Anyone may be arrested and anyone may go to jail. I must admit that since the supposed coup attempt, I haven’t drawn cartoons about Erdoğan and Turkish politics. Because I want to see the road ahead; because I really need to know if I'm safe or what will happen after all this.
Halit: In Turkey,  there are three kinds of cartoonists. The first are press cartoonists. Their job is the hardest of all. They are likely to be pressured, to face censorship  and to be fired because of what they draw. The same is happening in many countries around the world. The second group of cartoonists usually work for the benefit of governments. Their practices change as the governments change. They are at ease. I’m in the third group of freelance cartoonists. We draw cartoons about current issues and issues regarding the public according to our own points of view. We share these drawings in various platforms (especially in the social media) and we are also likely to face the problems that press cartoonists face, which results in self-censorship.

Menekse Cam
Cartoon by Menekse Cam.

Turkey has a rich tradition of cartoons and social satire. Can you explain some of history of this tradition and what role satire (cartoons) play in Turkish society?


Menekse: Nasreddin Hodja is perhaps the most famous example from Turkish history. A personality whose quick repartee and sharp intelligence has survived in stories and anecdotes since 1284.  Another example is GIRGIR, which was a great humor magazine for 21 years. In my opinion cartooning is most important form of saitre, because it has a great mission. It creates awareness when something goes wrong. In a country like ours, drawing editorial cartoons is a form of activism. Also, cartoons  are like a captain's logbook. They are valuable documents that shed light on the future while the mainstream media are offering a one-sided representation of local or international events. So often cartoonists were arrested and imprisoned for calling attention to truths that they knew to be wrong.  As you know well, ‘There is more than one truth’.  Currently. there are much much more than one truth in Turkey but showing them clearly is really very dangerous for now. It's better to wait for a while. Otherwise, you may not be drawing for a long time.

 

'In a country like ours,  

drawing editorial cartoons

is a form of activism.'

 


Emrah:  The first cartoon was published in Turkey in 1867 during the Ottoman period. Diyojen was the first printed cartoon mag, printed in 1870. Cemal Nadir Güler is the most important cartoonist in classic cartoon period.
Halit: Even in the most difficult years, the old masters made use of cartoons to inform society about the issues which were difficult to write about in the press. We see this in the cartoons of Turhan Selçuk, Oğuz Aral, Semih Balcığolu and of many other old cartoonists. In the past, many humor magazines sold quite well. The interest of the Turkish people  played an important role in the establishment and improvement of the tradition of cartoons.

Emarah ArikanCartoon by Emrah Arikan.

3) What are your favorite subjects to draw about?

Menekse: I just love to draw no matter which subject is. I used to be a spectator of events; I became an activist questioning and criticizing by drawing cartoons. In addition to timely political cartoons I often draw cartoons on global issues which never lose timeliness (like the problems women face, wars, hunger, ecological issues, human relations etc.) I sometimes draw  them on specific days (like 1 May - Labor Day, or 8 March - International Women’s Day), sometimes I take inspiration from the competitions.  A cartoonist should be able to express him/herself in every subject.
Emrah: I tend to draw about general themes like terrorism, war, starvation, children rights, human rights, justice and freedom.
Oguz: I also tend to draw about those subjects that are universal.
Halit: I most frequently draw about political issues, sports, terror and social injustices.

Halit KurtulmusCartoon by Halit Kurtulmus

How do you see the future for cartooning in Turkey? Are (m)any young cartoonists? And are there enough places to publish cartoons?

Menekse: I believe that the conditions we face today are temporary. I hope the Turkish cartoon will have the place it deserves soon. There are a lot of young cartoonists here. For now the most important place to publish our works is the Internet, which provides an endless opportunity for us. The government banned first Twitter, later YouTube in Turkey two years ago. But while there were 7 million Twitter users in Turkey before the ban, there were 10 million at the end of the first day of the ban. In the same way the people continued to use YouTube after the ban. We became a kind of a specialist of IT by finding various ways to circumvent the bans. After all, Turkey provides us with many subjects to draw cartoons about!

 

'Cartoons are important

because they are often

the voice of the people.'

 


Halit: Even though the circumstances are getting harder, cartooning is improving in Turkey and the interest of young people is increasing. There are cartooning courses for children in many cities around Turkey, where master cartoonists share their knowledge. I’m personally very hopeful about the future of Turkish cartooning. Unlike many parts of the world, the number of young cartoonists in my country is increasing. We are happy about it. However, we don’t have any platforms to publish our cartoons.

Oguz GurelCartoon by Oguz Gurel.

Why are cartoons important in your opinion? Can cartoons contribute to a better future in Turkey?

Menekse: Because a  cartoon (even without any speech balloon) can tell people (no matter which language they speak) much more than a lot of  pages of the article. No doubt cartoons have the power to contribute to a better future.
Halit:  As it has always been, the art of cartooning still has an important role to play in the memory of a society. It witnesses and chronicles many events happening all around the world.
Oguz: Cartoons are important because they are often the voice of the people.

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Cartooning in Italy

In our community of 400+ cartoonists from around the globe, almost 30 come from Italy. To find out more about cartooning in Italy, we talk to Cristina Bernazzini, Enrico Bertuccioli, Lamberto Tomassini (aka Tomas), Andrea Vitti and Emanuele Del Rosso.

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We feature a lot of Italian cartoonists on our website. Is that just our perception or is the cartooning scene indeed thriving in Italy?

Andrea: The cartooning scene in Italy has been particularly thriving after 1968, when the social movements of students and workers were born. This lead to the foundation of important satirical magazines, such as Il Male, Cabalà, Cannibale, Frigidaire and linus, together with some great cartoonists such as Andrea Pazienza or Igort. That period, till the 1980s, was very thriving for cartoonists. Then the 1990s and the 00s were obscured by the growth of commercial TV and a lowering of the general cultural level. All the main magazines were closed and (almost) only commercial comics survived. Now with the web and a more global vision, cartooning is improving again, especially in the fields of graphic novels and graphic journalism, also thanks to new famous cartoonists such as Gipi or Zerocalcare.

'There is a shared idea

that cartoonists are only

drawing 'disegnini' or

‘little drawings’.

This is not a respected

profession here.’


Emanuele: The cartooning scene in Italy is undoubtedly very lively. In a country in which bad politics and social issues are a day-to-day problem, the need for satire is strong. Moreover, Italy has a remarkable satirical tradition: the satirical magazines, some of which are still around, testify the presence of a strong and active satirical streak. The problem is, instead, that Italy is vexed by censorship, so political cartoons and other forms of free thought - quality journalism as well - are not welcomed by the political class.

Satirical_magazinesCovers of Italian satirical magazines from the 1960s and 1970s.

Is there a trait or style that is typical for cartoonists in Italy?

Enrico: I think there is a typical Italian cartoon, which revolves around one or two characters. In the first variant one character talks about a social or political issue with a speech bubble, sometimes with a caption to introduce the subject. The other variant has two characters having a dialogue with a punchline.
Tomas: I do not think there is a typical Italian style. Actually there is a big difference from author to author. Some major cartoonists strive for high quality in the artistic sense, but some of the younger ones are influenced by a recent trend, inspired by the success of sites like spinoza.it or lercio.it. These cartoonists prefer 'written' satire to 'drawn' satire. So they prefer to focus on the idea, considering the drawn part only as a simple support.
Andrea: I would say mainly inked black and white, but there are many different traits and styles even within the work of single cartoonists such as Hugo Pratt, Magnus or Andrea Pazienza, among others.

Cristina BernazzaniCartoon by Cristina Bernazzani.

What are your favorite subjects to draw about?

Cristina: The arrogance of the powerful at the expense of the poor. The globalization of this phenomenon is one of my favorite topics.
Emanuele: I love to follow the news and draw about anything that happens in the world and deserves a thought. Migrations, politics, sport, war, violence, human rights and so on. I love to draw people with their different facial expressions, that for sure.
Enrico: Generally I draw about the political and social situation in Italy, but also about the international situation if there are important subjects to pay attention to. Often international situations have a direct impact on the local situation. Local and global are intertwined more and more.
Tomas: My input comes from the political news, especially from Italy, but also from Europe and the rest of the world. I think that satire must always challenge authority, showing its flaws and faults to public opinion, which is sometimes too sleepy. Good satire can do this because of its revolutionary, utopian view which shows that an alternative reality is always possible.
Andrea: I'm pretty new in the cartooning world, even if I've always read tons of cartoons and I've been drawing for myself my whole life (travel sketches or surreal scenes). At the moment I'm particularly interested in the subject of migrants and the related social problems.

Enrico BertuccioliCartoon by Enrico Bertuccioli.

Are there taboos in Italy? And is there outright censorship on some topics?

Cristina: Italy is a very Catholic country, so the biggest taboo is anything related to the Vatican. There is also a taboo in dealing with the problem of money, even in everyday life.
Emanuele: I wouldn't say that there are taboos - cartoonists can draw about everything, as far as I noticed. But there is a sort of self-censorship by the newspapers themselves, sometimes. The topic of journalism is a tough and complicated one, and involves the funding that the government gives to the newspapers. Because of the money they receive, even if they publish crappy articles, newspapers don't strive that much for finding new stuff or for fostering any kind of public discourse.

 

‘The fact that the

Vatican State is in

Rome is a problem

for cartoonists.’

 

Enrico: I think that in Italy the most important taboo is religion. The fact that the Vatican State is in Rome is a problem for cartoonists working in newspapers or magazines. They can be attacked for offending religious believers. Sometimes there is also the risk to be sued for what authors draw and write about politicians. Newspapers don’t want to be sued for the ‘provocative’ work of a cartoonist. Riccardo Mannelli, one of the most important Italian satirical artists, said that the institutional press do not let editorial cartoonists draw what they want. They put limits to the cartoonists ideas.In Mannelli’s words, 'Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, Il Fatto Quotidiano…they dictate priorities. (...) We are tolerated in the insitutional press. We are guests and so we are watched over by the master of the house'.
Tomas: Obviously, the presence of Vatican City in Italy heavily influences politics and culture. So the most common taboos are the ones that concern the field of religion.  The situation in Italy is very different from countries with oppressive authoritarian regimes, where satire faces violent censorship attacks (although, paradoxically, these attacks can contribute to make the satire stronger). Here, more than risking censorship, satire tends to become weak. Cartoonists, in some cases, afraid of losing their good jobs, consider themselves like mere employees of the newspapers and accept the limits of the editorial line, through a self-censorship which betrays their vocation to intellectual freedom.
Andrea: When it comes of satirical cartoons, I think the only real taboo is about swearing against god, all the rest has already been drawn. Of course newspapers, magazines and media are generally not free, but always aligned with political parties or religious and ideological movements, so I think in the media there is a kind of internal censorship for what is not aligned with the main orientation or ideology.

Tomas                                         Cartoon by Tomas.

In most countries, it’s difficult for cartoonists to make a living. Are there a lot of places for a cartoonist to publish in Italy? And if so, do they pay?

Emanuele: Few pay, as far as I've seen. And if they do, surely what they give is not enough to live with. So far, none of the magazines that asked me to contribute talked about money. There is a shared idea that cartoonists are only drawing 'disegnini', that is, 'little drawings', little pictures, that anybody could do. This is not a respected profession here - my mentors, Toti Buratti among them, and others, told me so many times.
Enrico: No, there are not so many places for a cartoonist to be published. At the moment there are no satirical inserts in magazines (weekly or monthly) and no satirical pages in newspapers. There is Il Nuovo Male a monthly independent satirical magazine. Another one is linus, an important monthly paper magazine founded in 1965 and still alive. It publishes comic strips and illustrations from Italian and international artists, with an eye also for the political and social problems through essays of well known writers, journalists ans satyrical authors. A magazine like Internazionale gives space to editorial cartoons or political comic strips, but institutional newspapers have their own cartoonists and they don’t want to take any risk trying to launch new artists. I know that big newspapers give a fee to their cartoonists (I’ve worked for the Sunday satirical insert of Il Fatto Quotidiano and they paid me) but there are few cartoonists that live of their work in Italy. So satirical cartoonists seek refuge in the internet, where everyone has the possibility to show their work, to launch projects or to collaborate with web magazines. The Internet offers many opportunities, but finding paying work online remains a problem for cartoonists.

'In recent years,

the possibilities to publish

have dramatically decreased.'


Tomas: In recent years, the possibilities to publish have dramatically decreased. Many newspapers have decided to stop the production of satirical inserts. In addition, the authors who work in newspapers and in TV networks are very few and are always the same for years, hindering the possibility of a real generational change. When an editor decides to give space to little-known authors, it's very unlikely he is willing to pay them. Many young people who wish to undertake this activity often agree to give up their work for free, hoping to be rewarded with visibility. And that's an attitude to be absolutely avoided, because it helps to maintain the status quo.

Andrea VittiCartoon by Andrea Vitti.

Are there many young cartoonists?

Tomas: There are many young people in Italy who are trying to work as a cartoonist. I think  they are enticed by the fact that satire is an important way to communicate ideas. Moreover, satire is always present in the first page of our major newspapers, where it is used as a strategic and effective weapon (a cartoon reaches its target in an instant, while an article needs to be digested and assimilated by the readers).
Emanuele: There are many young cartoonists, but sometimes they lack the political awareness that is needed to be an editorial cartoonist. In any case, the graphic novel field, for example, is in steady and fast expansion.
Andrea: The rise of new genres, such as graphic novels and graphic journalism, has lead to an increase of younger cartoonists, born in the 80s and 90s, such as Zerocalcare.

Emanuele Del RossoCartoon by Emanuele Del Rosso.

Are you positive about the future of editorial cartooning in Italy?

Cristina: I see more possibilities for comics than for editorial cartoons.
Emanuele: It's difficult to be positive about the future of a free-thinking-people interest, because of the Italian censorship, lack of money and lack of investment in the field. But things are moving, and networks with abroad are built. So yes, I try to stay positive!
Enrico: No, I’m not so positive about it. I don’t know if there is a young audience really interested in the art of editorial cartooning: spaces to be published are very scarce I’m not sure that Internet could be the lifeline. There are not so many projects like Cartoon Movement around.
Andrea: Italy is an amazing and very complex country, a place of deep contrasts. II think we're passing through a bad identity and cultural crisis. But crises are moments of change, where new spaces are created, and I'm positive about the Italians' attitude towards creativity. Moreover we are more connected to the world and to Europe than ever, and I see this as a positive challenge to widen our horizons. So, I'm trying to do my best with my creativity, to try and make things better.

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Cartooning in Yemen

Arwa Moukbel is a young cartoonist that recently joined our community. She’s from Yemen, not a place where you’d expect to find (female) cartoonists. All the more reason to ask her a few questions.

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Humans are cheap, bullets expensive - © Arwa Moukbel

Why and when did you start making cartoons?

I always saw the daily cartoons in the local newspapers, and I was a big fan of the drawings of Naji Al-Ali. I started drawing cartoons in school, mostly about the Palestinian cause. I knew the bigger newspapers imposed restrictions on what you were allowed to draw, but at the time I hoped to find a small newspaper or website that might be interested in my work.

For a long time, I settled for making cartoons with any place to publish them. Since 8 months, I have a Facebook page.

What are the red lines (subjects you cannot draw about?

A red line in the past was to criticize the system of Ali Saleh and staff. Now, I believe, the biggest red line is criticism of the Saudi regime. My family is afraid, so they prevented me from publishing some of my cartoons that talked about Saudi Arabia 's policy towards Yemen.

But now I am very happy to joined Cartoon Movement. It gives me the chance to publish my work, a chance I do not have here in Yemen, being almost the only female cartoonist.

The_relationship_between_yemen_and_saudi_arabia__arwa_moukbel

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemen - © Arwa Moukbel