Online event: Can we laugh at 2022?

Entering_2023_-_Del_RossoCartoon by Emanuele Del Rosso

Our publishing partner VoxEurop looks back on 2022 in the company of two cartoonists, the Dane Niels Bo Bojesen and the Netherlands-based Italian Emanuele Del Rosso. You can meet the two cartoonists on 24 January at 12.30 p.m. CET, for an hour of conversation in English. They will comment on the news of the past year, suggest some ways to approach the year to come, and talk to us about their profession and passion. You can register for free to attend the online event here.


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.

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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.


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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