Q&A on the thrills and trials of Cartoonists for Peace

Q&A on the thrills and trials of Cartoonists for Peace

 

By David Young

PANELISTS:

Xavier Gorce, Press Cartoonist, France

Zohore, Cartooning for Peace Ambassador for Peace Cote d’Avoire

Branden, Editorial Cartoonist, South Africa

Yemsrach Yetneberk, Cartoonist, Ethiopia

Lars Refn, Press Cartoonist, Denmark

Alaa Satir, Cartoonist, Sudan

Zunar, Cartoonist, Malaysia

Moderator: Emeline Wuillbercq

Organizer: Cartooning for Peace

 

Have you ever wanted to give up?

Zunar: Cartooning isn’t a choice; it’s a responsibility. We need to use cartoons for good cause for the people. A a cartoonist, I have an important weapon: the cartoon. It’s the most powerful media of communication. Even though I face a lot of problems from government, I say that I need to continue because this is my duty as a cartoonist to use cartoons for my people and also for the people around the world.

Do you see yourself as cartoonist, artist, activist, journalist?

Alaa: I’m an artist and I use my work to advocate for certain topics that aren’t easy to talk about in daily life.

Zohore: I consider myself an artist first. I do not consider myself a journalist, but I consider myself first as an artist. When we work on cartoon, the highest authority we try to avoid is the ministry of culture. When we look at global trends, I don’t think it’s up to expectation of mobilization we are hoping for. When a journalist is imprisoned, the mobilization is much stronger. We need to be in solidarity with journalists because our job is just as risky.

Are there mechanisms for protection?

Lars: Even though we have huge freedom, we’re also being controlled by medias for which we’re working. It’s parental guidance and we have to fight to be free and make our cartoons, which is why I start my own media. Even in country like Denmark, the editors are trembling for whats happening on social media, so there’s this automatic censorship even in free country.

Have you witnessed any change in attitude of editors towards the drawings you publish on social media? Are they afraid of backlash?

Brendan: I get insulated from it myself. But of course, we need to be sensitive, but also must realize that a lot of these interest groups are organized and whatever you do, they’ll barrage you with tons of emails so don’t take it peersoannlly.

What kind of censorship have you faced?

Lars: Self-censorship is growing on everyone. At the end, you feel self-censorship in you, which is dangerous. How much are you willing to give? Not every cartoonist is brave enough to go to prison. You become a bit anxious about who’s passing your house at a certain level.

Zohore: Social media has gained ascendancy. People use Facebook as a source of information. When comments are made on subjects of topical interest, Facebook is a platform of information and that’s a dangerous thing because people don’t verify the truthfulness of whats put on facebook.

Have you seen different ways in which cartoonists have portrayed religions since Charlie Hebdo attack?

 Zunar: Im a cartoonist muslim. As a Muslim I was not happy with that cartoon, but the cartoonist has the right to draw it. If Muslims are unhappy, that’sok. But the way we react is the problem. Why don’t muslims draw a good cartoon about prophet Muhammad? Show them what’s right. Muslims use violence instead of educating others on what is acceptable. I don’t criticize the religion, but the followers.

Lars: You must also look at cartoon and understand them. The Charlie Hebdo one was misunderstood. Need to understand and not drag cartoon out of context. We must try to understand them before judging them.

Brendan: We try to use very simple language to get our points across. Cartooning is a continuious laearning process. We learn what iamges mean to certain people, so we invent new waysof showing images and communicating things. I think cartoonist will always evolve and do better work because of this.

 On Sundanese revolution.

 Alaa: Cartooning and art is a way to break boundaries. Sudan is a very guarded society. Many boundaries. Art tries to create conversation and push bondaires just a bit so people don’t feel offended, but are willing to take part in conversation.

Do you feel today cartoonists have a tough time economically?

Zohore: Yes. We are seeing people who are talented going away from this trade. It’s hard to make a living. Print media faces problems because of internet. Some consider internet as an enemy. We should see them as complimentary to the work we’re doing.

Zunar: Yes, the economy is a challenge. But also, challenge in era of social media is for cartoonist to be a quality cartoonist. First, you have to learn technology. Second, you don’t have an editor, so you really have to prepare yourself with the content of the cartoon. You are alone. Can only defend yourself. If your cartoon is good and popular, you can still make money. To be a quality cartoonist, this is a challenge.

Lars: Have to find way of generating money on the internet. By organizing ourselves, we can find ways of getting money out of huge companies like Facebook and Google.

Cartooning Delcaration was read, making Cartooning a fundamental human right. “The Addis Ababa Declaration for the Recognition of Cartooning as a Fundamental Human Right.” How objective are cartoons? Do we regard them as real objective journalistic expressions?

Zunar: We do what’s the best for us. We can’t be balanced. As a human, we need to choose. I have philosophy of how I can be neutral. I don’t want to be objective as a cartoonist. Yes I am biased, we are human. If humans aren’t biased, they aren’t human. You go to a restaurant, you need to choose food. I really believe this and I practice this.

Xavier: When you put your pen on the paper, you don’t draw the same line every time. Image is subjective. 

Brendan:  Cartoons are always doubly subjective: There’s the cartoonist’s subjectivity. And then the viewer’s subjectivity.

Zohore: For those who learned philosopy, we don’t only have 1 truths, but several. Jouranlism is objective, but in reality, everything is subjective. Everything is subjective.

What is the role of the cartoons in education for children?

Zohore: Cartoon is not only for children, but also for adults. There are several levels of drawing and caricature. Some are just not good for children. In schools, sometimes we use drawings to sensitize children. We adapt our drawings to kids that are less dangerous. It’s at the youngest ages that we learn to draw.

Zunar: The important thing for the cartoonist is whenever we draw, we have a target audience. Choose your audience. Whether kids will be affected or not, it’s the job of the parents, not the cartoonist to decide whether a kid can read the cartoon.

How do you see cartooning evolving on digital media, especially with meme and GIF culture? How can cartooning play into this culture, especially with young people? Second question: do you think there’s a space for talking about bias of artists?

Zunar: I see a bright future for cartoons because the people in the world are too lazy to read. People are also depressed, and cartoon is a medicine for this. But they need to really make a lot of cartoons that aren’t only focused on certain subjects. There are so many subjects in the world that haven’t been touched by cartoonists. Laughter is the best protest. If you can’t beat them, you laugh at them. People need laughter.
Alaa: “Art tries to create conversation and push boundaries just a bit so people don’t feel offended, but are willing to take part in conversation.” 

Zunar: “I see a bright future for cartoons because the people in the world are too lazy to read”. “Laughter is the best protest. If you can’t beat them, you laugh at them. People need laughter.”  “Cartooning isn’t a choice; it’s a responsibility. We need to use cartoons for good cause for the people.” 

Lars: “Self-censorship is growing on everyone. At the end, you feel self-censorship in you, which is dangerous. How much are you willing to give? Not every cartoonist is brave enough to go to prison.”

Zohore: “cartoonists are not reporters; we are visual commentators.” 

Zohore: “When a journalist is imprisoned, the mobilization is much stronger. We need to be in solidarity with journalists because our job is just as risky.” 

Xavieer: “When you put your pen on the paper, you don’t draw the same line every time. Image is subjective.” 

Alaa: “I’m an artist and I use my work to advocate for certain topics that aren’t easy to talk about in daily life.” 

Lars: “We must try to understand them [cartoons] before judging them.” 

Brendan: “Cartooning is a continuious laearning process. We learn what iamges mean to certain people, so we invent new waysof showing images and communicating things.”