Monday, 17 December 2018


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:

Pedro X. Molina, Rabid, November 25, 2018.

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.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Dilemma into Conflict

Roar Hagen, 2017: "It's typically Norwegian to be good".
Words first articulated by then Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Note the desert setting...

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, 2017: "We are suing the parliament for our own riches".
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 obstacle. It has in fact pushed the mountains into the background as Roar accentuates, although the eternally snow-clad peaks only serve to show off the difference. The new and strange structure, however, is breaking into society making that gap all the bigger: Oil.

A dirty word almost all of itself. To the dilemma already at hand has now been added the collective guilt of being rich.

Roar Hagen, 2017.
Oil is a defining matter, linked to a certain type of behaviour. Indifference or outright opposition to human rights is one of them.

From moral dilemma to moral conflict in other words, being on first name level with Iran and Saudi. Even taking a step back while they set the oil prices, means taking active part. Barren yellow creeps in as the ground on which everything takes places.

Roar Hagen, 2016
OH WHY? the wretched Norwegian shouts out, not even getting an echo for an answer as the mountains of yore would have provided. The oil culprits meanwhile could not care any less, busy as they are shooting down the price per barrel in order to create problems for the other - two of a kind as they are in their brush-off, forgetting the troubles it creates for themselves too. Even the stupidity of it.

"We must in some measure distance ourselves from reality, that is, from ourselves", Roar concludes.

Norway has placed its riches for the long-term common good, saving for the future. Not a bad new rock as it is, although that is no consolation for the struggling. Besides, there is much to do. Not least from what is created by those, who brush of our shared humanity.

Roar Hagen, 2015.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Roar Hagen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

"Everyone has left me"

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.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish, Detail of Getting Beaten.

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 the horrific face of that reality.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish. 

Please click the present cartoons for their detailing on the living hell Ali Durrani endured as an asylum seeker arriving in Australia in July 2013 until December 2017 when he was rescued to Norway. He arrived at the very moment the Australian Prime Minister announced an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to send on asylum seekers to an "offshore" placement while their status was being assessed. Ali was but 21.

He was sent to Manus Island in 2014 where he endured a living hell of violence and sexual harassment. Drawing became a means of keeping going, buying a pen through his weekly points, while paper had to be stolen one sheet at a time from the office, as he told me when we met in May this year.

So each sheet is used to the full, brimming over with information on what took place.

We learn of the friend who died from violence and subsequent neglect. His grave is a constant presence as an insistence and homage of his life lost, just as we learn of the guards becoming part of the problem egging on the violence taking place. For one, stealing the paper meant punishment.

And no, drawing was no help to him. It did not make him feel better. To humankind, on the other hand, it is important documentation on what happens, when isolation and neglect are made acceptable means. People died from it on Manus Island. Ali very nearly became one of them.

The far-right extremists who have a deciding voice in Danish politics have denounced the term "human" as if that is something that can be undecided by waving it off. Again, please click on the present cartoons and do look up Ali's work penned as Eaten Fish.

This is proof of humanity when it is denounced.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish, Nightmare

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Ali Durrani.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Future Lost

Pedro X. Molina, October 4, 2018.
"Faber López was a police officer, who at some point during the protests againt the
Ortegan government decided enough was enough and handed in his resignation.
He was forced into the street, where he was killed on July 8. He was killed
by the police, according to his mother".

@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.

Pedro X. Molina, October 6, 2018.
"Rayneia Lima was a Brazilian medical student in Nicaragua. She was killed by
paramilitaries when she was driving home after finishing her shift at a local hospital.
She was 31".

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 in terms of dates already belong to a past, yet what they stood for is as important and unresolved as ever, and so their loss is given a presence on why they were denied a future.

Pedro X. Molina, October 7, 2018.
"Matt Romero, a high school student was participating in a march for the freedom of political
prisoners on September 23, where he was killed. He was 16".

They are each looking directly at us with welcoming generosity. They are not confronting us. Theirs are the open faces of the young in contrast to the disguised militants, who took their lives. These are the ones, who have been called derogatory names by Rosario Murillo. Now we see the true light of their faces. They are the future lost.

Each is presented with a piece of characteristics or a symbol on the human that were here mere moments ago. The soft apparel of the former uniformed policeman, for one. Most notable are the recurring blue and white stripes. They are Nicaragua.

Pedro X. Molina's #inktober2018 can be followed at his Instagram account @pxmolina.

Pedro X. Molina, October 5, 2018.
"Erick Cubillo was a student at Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria.
In killing him, his two-year old daughter was left without her father".

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Pedro X. Molina: PLEASE SHARE THEM.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Portrait Test

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

Khalid Albaih, MBS and the "Media", March 8, 2018.
Mohammed bin Salman boosting his image as a reformer
while jailing dissent.
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.

Cartoonists believe in disclosure while everyone is still around and so they carry Dorian Gray's portrait from the attic of Oscar Wilde's novel, in this case the true likeness of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as drawn by Khalid Albaih. Eating children is one of the oldest tropes of evil. In this case, the situation is an actual one.

The Crown Prince is the acting body in seeing to the starving taking place. He is feasting on the profits from letting infants in the millions die from starvation.

Khalid Albaih, Yemeni Meal, September 25, 2018.

Dorian Gray killed the artist of his oil painting to keep his soul a secret. In September the Saudi authorities declared a ban on online satire for its "disruption" of "public order".

Well, this is not satire. This is the Saudi leader grown into his own cartoon for what he is: the opposer of civil rights. His answer to non-violent speaking of rights is one of violence.

You shall indeed be your own portrait of what you do. 

Khalid Albaih, OBEY, November 7, 2017.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Do We Need Stereotypes?

Christoph Niemann with his example on how to
minimize the population of baby pandas.
Screenshot from his TEDtalk, August 2018.
"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 form as well as its content. A stale idea from beginning to end from which arises nothing but a travesty: a mockery of all that is artistic creation and by thus intelligent life.

The life of lazy argumentation is made all the easier from the fact that cartooning uses figuration. Such as fish, bears and the Statue of Liberty. Well then, the line of argumentation seems to take, every time there is a bear, that is... seen before... But cartooning is not primarily about the seen before.

Cartooning is what it brings to the conversation with us, its beholders.

Riber Hansson, 2007.

The danger of even looking this bear into his eyes.

Before us - right above and below - are two of the most drawn symbols on power and freedom respectively. They come from each from their corner of the world and they each specify how their respective nations define themselves or are defined.

Let us speak of Ur-Stories.

Art forms have their Ur-Stories onto which every new artwork adds another layer. The two symbols before us are effective in that the one above contain a long story of killing fields, defeating both Napoleon and Hitler, because the latter ignored the lesson Napoleon was given. There is a myth to that power of something impossible to fully grasp however much we try.

Below is the Roman goddess Libertas in her best-known recent configuration as the giant in bronze correlating to the giant idea of freedom. Goddesses and what they personify along with the powerful animals are imagery on the grandest scale from the equally grand compositions of history painting once commissioned for palaces and later on for town halls and parliaments.

Here someone will immediately object that regal history painting is no longer relevant and there is a reason why. However, there will always be ample reason for the artist taking on history, as Aristotle confirmed. The artist creates something that we can encompass with our eyes. A dramatic mise en scène that encompasses all that has taken place and what is likely to happen from here on.

Aristotle gives us the fine-tuning explanation on what the cartoonist does when using figuration. The solidity before our eyes is based in abstraction. The artist selects the traits of our day and age and deducts from there what will reasonably take place. In the dramatic narrative that ensues, we see the characters how they are likely to speak or act.

We recognize the characters. We recognize their arguments. We recognize it all because this is our world; an observation that was true, when Aristotle wrote it just as it is today. We are part of what is taking place before us and we see it all come alive.

Portraiture is a key feature to the drama. In fact, a portrait can be so deftly composed that it encompasses it all. Riber Hansson has drawn a specific danger. The one that seeks to stifle truth and democracy alike. Putin is replacing the many voices of democracy to the one before us. His narrative only. He his challenging us, securing our gaze to let us know just how dangerous his game is. His file is just for show. He is his own weapon and his portraitist has undressed him to his fur.

There is a narrative to win back from the narrative of Putin and his lackeys around the world, one of which is orange. Siri Dokken has dissolved the Drumpf into orange gasses interspersed with willowy yellow. This is a composition on a juxtaposition that is no longer there. The bronze has been eaten from within and is now collapsing to one side, while the gasses are unraveling to the other. The only vertical line left is the IV stand. Liberty is nothing but a skull whose skin has dragged the ear down to one side. That is a badass detail of the most painful nature.

The eyes of the bronze has slit open to the despair beyond all despair.

It is not healthy looking into her eyes, just as it is not healthy looking into Putin's, but "We need to be involved in the argument if we are to have any chance of winning it", as Salman Rushdie wrote in the The New Yorker in May on the anti-truth times in which we live.

Our cartoonists have given us the punch in the stomach to do so.

Siri Dokken, August 23, 2018.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Siri Dokken and Riber Hansson and must not be reproduced without their permission.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Those Diabolical Caricatures

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:

Pedro X. Molina, "Skinned Cats!" September 11, 2018.

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 that she had seen the cartoon above and that it hurt. It struck right as it was intended.

Pedro X. Molina, The Madness of the Empress, September 17, 2018.
"Caricature! You are all a caricature!!"
Her response was to forget her claim of being a poet and just throw caricature back out there in the No you are more! when children lack words.

Again she was drawn. This time she was a classical caricature, where the first one was an allegory on the political situation.

Each time in a 1:1 exposure to the beholder, facing us directly. Pedro X. Molina is working in a literal sense, giving her the shape and form of her own words.

This is how the noise screen of the responsible looks in visual form.

To paraphrase Molina, who said it so precisely himself: a caricature exaggerates a reality to make it more obvious. In the case of the protesters, it is their loyalty to their country and on the side of the oppressors their lunacy.

He exaggerated and he was SEEN.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Pedro X. Molina: PLEASE SHARE THEM.

Rebels Needed

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

Cintia Bolio, Alice Rebelling, 2016.
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 story?

The real question in this situation was: Why was it painful to see the reaction of Serena Williams on the day?

It was her words drawing in implications, where they had no being.

Serena Williams happens to have an instrument in both areas of her life's work with the same outline. She has been a rebel on behalf of women and girls in sport as in life proving that change is possible. She has been breaking new ground, holding it high while batting right back at those opposing her work. She is inspiration and direct action in one for the new generations.

She will continue to be important with so much more to do and we know she will.

Khalid Albaih placed a cartoon on the social media intended for an upcoming publication in which she is at her highest. Her muscle tone is catching the highlight.

The difference between the actual situation and the cartoon caught that exact pain of the day.

That is drawing at her level.

She has been undaunted. She is a rebel daring to think anew, just as Alice in Wonderland steps right into that strange structure that is life to question every corner of it.

Khalid Wad Albai, September 11, 2018.

Representation is important, as Khalid affirmed.

Representation for the young to take inspiration from just as it is important in cartooning. What do you want from making your cartoon?

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Cintia Bolio and Khalid Albaih and must not be reproduced without their permission.

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