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Cartoonist Portrait of the Year

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Zunar can blow on his smoking gun to mark a job damn well done.

In truth, the cartoon above is three years old. Cartoonists do not waste time drawing themselves once their mission is accomplished. The one above was a distillation of his hitherto most important self-portrait, the one to the right of here.

This too is not so much of his person as of his mission. It was a catalog of the number of charges with no basis in the constitution, formulated to lock up those critical of the Malaysian government. Yet, Zunar kept drawing and the cartoon is a cartoon on his compositional technique: Placing the protagonist as the main object on the picture frame, while painting with the only bodily movement left to him. She being drawn is the wife of the then prime minister and co- if not the major player in their corruption scheme.

She may be a composition on his paper, but he is drawing the truth of her being, seeing as we all do Rosmah Mansor yelling at the bottom plane: Charge him!

His weapon of…

Khartoon!

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The present words are thoughts on a book two months published or nearly so. It is the first collection of the cartoons by Khalid Albaih stemming from the days of Occupy till the present and it has been interesting to note the first reactions from holding almost a kilo of them within that one cover.

The feedback has focused on the stark meeting with Khalid's line, all the more present from being seen on a solid page. Stark black on a white page no less. There is every sense of being met on each page with an onslaught of a clear idea transformed into line.

The stark onslaught has postponed seeing the wider frame of their setting, and since that what was our favourite part of the road to the book, I cannot wait any longer to write a few words about it.

It felt like an revelation seeing the cartoons fall into their natural place as in a mosaic finally being laid. A mosaic just waiting to be detected in its entirety. Seeing Khalid's jubilations while he and I did the arrangement w…

#SOSNICARAGUA

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This is not a civil war, as Pedro X. Molina has told us since April this year.

This is not a conflict of two sides.

There is but one, and please click for every element of its physiognomy, because Nicaragua needs help to stop it in its track:




We have seen them gradually transform into their true face. Red swirls for the pupils of their eyes at once disclose their blood-pounding rage and beyond that how there is no sense to be found within. Hundreds have lost their lives to them. Many more are wounded. They are cracking down on the critical press. Pedro X. Molina is one of their targets.

As long as the world does nothing, they can show off their torn prizes. To the left the Nicaraguan constitution is no longer. To the right the human rights.

If still nothing is done, human rights are indeed but an empty void.


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Pedro X Molina: PLEASE SHARE.




Dilemma into Conflict

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The rock on which Norway is built is a solid one.

Equal measures of heroic history and the grandeur of nature, both of which of a forceful and dangerous character not to be messed with.

With grandeur comes a moral collective obligation to do right and the Norwegians of present day have been doing their utmost. Today this year's Nobel Peace Prize shall be awarded in Oslo. Norway too has housed forums for negotiating peace, just as they strive to be the major donor country in the world. 
Roar Hagen gifted me his beautiful book Den norske fortellingen (The Norwegian Tale) when we met this autumn, highlighting four decades of taking on the role no less of anthropologist and sociologist, working at the core of that very moral dilemma.

While the classical dichotomy of cartooning lies between the ideal that human never was and the actual fallible human, this is a dichotomy between what once was and the moral drive to do likewise in the present.

At the heart of the dilemma lies another o…

"Everyone has left me"

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We are speaking of persons, who have already served their sentences.

The Danish government proposes to place "criminal foreigners" on a secluded seven acres island. "Criminal" as in persons who have served a sentence, but cannot be sent back or those who have taken part in foreign wars such as in Syria.

They would be barred from the rest of society.




It would be against the rulings from our High Court just as it would be against the human rights if it were to become a reality. There is no such thing as "problem gone" by secluding certain persons or groups of persons in a responsible society. To willfully do wrong belongs to despotism.

The secluded would continue to be the responsibility of the government in what would be their reality going forward. Every beating, every incident of sexual abuse, and violence from other "inmates" as well as from the guards present is the action of the government.

We have cartooning evidence from within showing us…

Future Lost

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@Inktober is now in its ninth year dedicating one month to the basic act of drawing. Free of the demands from editors and other customers, this is an occasion created to let the pen run free. It is a celebration of the infinite possibilities of hand and pen. What is otherwise toned down, can now twirl and twist with just the one requirement that each day during October should produce its own drawing.



While Inktober is toning down the content for the form, Pedro X. Molina is dedicating the daily deadline to a subject that has been drowned in all that has taken place in Nicaragua this spring and summer. He declares the cartoon an instrument and his present task is an extensive one morally and workwise to get every detail right. Pedro X. Molina is dedicating each day to a Nicaraguan, who has lost her or his life by hands of the Ortega's paramilitary groups. More often than not a young person, now given a face and their personal data for their moment of recognition.

The young could i…

The Portrait Test

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What do you want people to say when they point to your oil painting?


100 years, 200 years, 300 years from now, what are the deeds that stand out, when all the noise has evaporated? When you are no longer there to butter up the press so that they fall for your sweet-talking about being moderate and forward thinking?



The exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is missing after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Dr. Khashoggi has been a tireless and important voice on what is going on behind the Saudi cover of moderation, while authoritarianism is being strengthened.

Rumors speak of his being killed within the consulate. We only have rumors, but we know of their being only too possible.

The pattern is well established. The women's rights bloggers, Nouf Abdulaziz and Eman al-Nafjan, are both under arrest. In Yemen millions, many of which are infants, are facing starvation due to the Saudi-led coalition.

Then let the cartoonists carry the true painting from the attic.

Cartoonis…

Do We Need Stereotypes?

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"Every time a drawing like this is published, a baby panda will die", Christoph Niemann warned in his most recent TED Talk last month.

The stacking of pictorial elements such as the suit, the ladder and the dollar sign into an "And then... and then... and then...". All telling and no showing. It might as well have been written. There is a reason, why it is a safe blanket for editors, as Niemann points out, in that no one will notice the presence of the cartoon.

Niemann took a stand against what I call lazy cartooning and it is an important one, since this is what gives cartooning a bad name. I wish to take his words one step further and address the lazy way we talk about cartooning, i.e. the tired litany that cartooning runs on stereotypes.

When we speak of premises for composing a cartoon, we do not speak of a repertoire or even just motif the way we classify the workings of other art forms. Instead, we speak of stereotypes, which in its meaning comprises the for…

Those Diabolical Caricatures

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In this case not the ones on paper or the screen. The protesters against the regime in Nicaragua are caricatures of human life, according to Rosario Murillo, Vice-President and thus co-aggressor against those same protesters.

Between 322 and 481 are dead. Those numbers are already a week old. Add to this the thousands of wounded, not to mention the detained being tortured.

So the physical violence is backed by her verbal violence useful for creating a case for striking back at the protesters. They have been called every catchphrase within the domain of evildoers and nothings, such as vampires and menials. She then flung out cat skinners, as in persons of no significance socially and economically, having to eat cats to stay alive.

Pedro X. Molina drew her as a skinned cat:




There may or may not have been a correlation, but the timeline makes it likely that it was in direct response to the cartoon above that she declared the population for caricatures.

If so, she was revealing herself t…

Rebels Needed

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Serena Williams lost the finale of the US Open to Naomi Osaka a week ago. Since then we have had a number of cartoons showing her throwing a tantrum with the Mark Knight-one getting most of the attention.

We know the drill. It gets the pink skinned righters out of the woodwork shouting WHAT I AM DRAWING IS MY RIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!

It is.

Having the right to is not synonymous with cartooning worth its name, nor should it be for that matter. Let us instead turn to the matter of drawing the tantrum in that it involved three thick prejudices:

1. Women are hysterical
2. Women are hysterical and consequently not professional
3. African-American women are hysterical and consequently not professional


Thick prejudice involves no thinking. The cartoonist just needs to scratch himself and they crawl out. Did he even draw her before and if not, did he wait until she fit into his image of the world? What was it to the story that made it worth drawing in the first place? Was this the vital angle to the…

What Can I Do?

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- What can I do to make this world a better place? What can we do to help?

Three students came up to Khalid Albaih after his artist talk at his exhibition at Kulturværftet in Helsingør.

The day after Khalid was speaking at RUC, Roskilde University, upon which he received a message from one of the students naming it an "eye opening talk":

"It really touched me. It has certainly inspired me to try and make a difference in the world for people who have it much harder than myself, in instances that you demonstrated today"
And the message went on to specify:

"I must admit that I am guilty of dehumanising the experience of refugees, not consciously, but just because of how it is portrayed in the media like you said today. That is definitely something that I am going to actively change". 


This is it, such is the significance of cartooning at its best.

When at its best, it has means of changing our perception of the world and doing so to one person at a time. Ca…

The Unfakable

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Even before we opened Khalid Albaih's exhibition We Were Perfect at the Library at Kulturværftet in Elsinore (Helsingør), the exhibition had its first visitor.

A young refugee from the Syrian regime, his wide-eyed reaction, when being told that the artist was present before him was the best moment of the evening. His eyes told the story of the presence of Khalid's work too since 2011.

Running through one room of the exhibition is a "graffiti wall" a giant paper wall with dirtied up prints as they would have been seen stenciled on walls in Tahrir Square, Cairo and in Beirut. They were likewise brought on to the streets when demonstrating against regimes, or against the handling of refugees in Australia, and first and foremost they have gone viral on smart-screens in the Arab world as in the West.

The original of the cartoon is at any given instance the publicized one. In this case its publication took place in all of its formats, size and materials. We may speak of a…

Monument of Shame

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It is a monument of the atrocities taking place in Nicaragua. Constructions of steel around Managua, designed by Rosario Murillo, wife of president Daniel Ortega. As trees go, these produce no oxygen and can as such be no symbol of life.

Each of the killed embodies the Nicaraguan flag. The full story is before us.



The cartoon shown is courtesy of Bonil and must not be reproduced without his permission.






The Moral Case of Cartoonist vs. President

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Did I just read that? Surely I read wrong?

Correa, the former president of Ecuador has a warrant of arrest on his head.




Interpol has been alerted to have him extradited from Belgium. Belgium is apparently the new haven for political leaders on the run. The Catalan separatist leader escaped extradition from Belgium too only little over a month ago.

Responsibility is but a word of fashion, according to Correa. Now it is there, now it is not.

Correa has done anything in his power, rallying week after week, using every means of his presidential power to undermine the freedom held in the constitution against Bonil and his colleagues. Bonil was singled out time after time in court as in the rallies mentioned, hearing his person and cartoons harassed in a tone, which might have been a suggestion of... violence? Surely verbal violence, which might have escalated even further. Bonil was denied his personal and citizen rights on every level and for every bit of that burdensome and dangerous ro…

How To Lose The Moral Right to Govern

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HEAR US! Every cartoon from Pedro X. Molina right now is meant to hurt our eardrums. The volume turned to maximum is everything cartooning, or art for that matter, is not supposed to be and for that very reason the message is all the stronger.

To sum up the Nicaraguans plight, president Daniel Ortega has responded with violence against demonstrations protesting his politics. According to the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights at least 285 are dead and 1500 injured. By June 25.


The salivating Ortega has been turned into not just any beast, but one prepared to clamp down on critique against him. The bullet bars for teeth speak of preparation. In other words, Ortega embodies the problem; he is the problem.

He is as much a roaring noise as his moral counterpoint above, the pietà of desperation. The profound inner sorrow is wrought out to a collective outcry of desperation, desperate too to be heard. In the confrontation of sound, we have their respective stations.



Pedro X. Molina alr…

Terrorteguism

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Ter-ror-te-guism (org. terrorteguismo, 2018) noun, the alliance of terror and the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega 1. The present political situation in Nicaragua, where citizens, children included, are being shot and killed 2. The arming of militant groups acting as snipers, carrying out random killings of citizens 3. Impunity for everyone ordering or acting with violence against the citizens 4. The danger of all of the aforementioned to the Nicaraguans going forward. 




As exemplified by Pedro X. Molina, hope is troubled going forward. The tree of life is no longer a living one, but one made in a metal design by Ortega's wife. The death caravans with their masked men embody the old tales of the carretas nahuatl, the rumbling ghostly carts in the street at night, which everyone must take care never to see. Anyone who dares to sneak a glimpse will be gone in the morning. 
We recognize the ghostly cart from recent embodiments as well as of old. This carreta nahuatl has Ortega fo…

A Tale Of Four Images

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The trouble with imagery sharing a compositional resemblance is that most of the time we cannot establish, whether it may have been mental laziness on the copyist's part or that they are sharing their time and age and are as such each of them part of the larger picture.
It may be that the artist was taking up the inspiration found from another, which makes it proof how inspirational the first image turned out to be. The artist next in line was waiting for the right moment to make his or her own version. 
In the present case this is a story of four images so far.
The first two ones centered on the situation of Syrian children. All too painfully known photos on the little drowned Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh taken to an ambulance from beneath the rubbles of Aleppo following Russian air strikes. 
Khalid Albaih each time created his version within the first hours of their photos being published, stripping the children of the scenery in which they were photographed as if stark cut-o…
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