Sunday, 29 March 2015

No. 6001 Is Now Being Served

This week we were told that the US had applied one of the oldest tricks at hand within psychological warfare, dispersing 60,000 leaflets on March 16 from an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter above Raqqa, in which Daesh/IS are presiding.

Image produced by Military Information Support Operations
and released by U.S. Central Command

There is a tendency these years - if not most of the time, admittedly - to belittle the possible impact of imagery. Especially since it is near impossible to prove impact and outcome at the best of times, and leaflets and posters remembered might just be the result of assisted memory from the like of historians and exhibitions. Still, the stubborn imagery-pushers among us would say that given it is recalled long after the fact, gives us certain indications. Especially since such material would have been printed on cheap paper that disintegrates while the print is still wet. And so the discussion continues, all the while images such as the one above are being dispersed in much the same way they have been for the past 550 years since their printing was first made possible.

This one is less speaking on a symbolical level than telling a story. A young man drops his ticket at the "ISIS Employment Office" as the sign says to the left, as he realizes what the Daesh is all about the very moment his number comes up. The sign to the right says in spoken Arabic that No. 6001 is now being served.

The narration is not a subtle one, of course. Not so much the busy meat grinder as the characterization of the protagonists. I am a naïve Northerner, so I have asked those who knows, if this even works? The figure in the middle has been seen ad nauseam in Western iconography of the meanest kind: The Child Eater. Complete with the crooked finger luring in the young, the spiky fingernails and the grinning teeth baring the evil intentions...

Victimization yet again, sighed Tony Daoud, why make this a story about innocent youth and not what they simply are, ignorant? This way it is but yet another good vs. evil dichotomy, not even scratching the surface of the real nature of the Daesh. As Daryl Cagle wrote with a hearty grin this is a drawing that would do wonderfully in Tennessee with "Obamacare" written on the meat grinder.

But it could work as intended, Tarek Alghorani laid in, possibly too among the young in the West, who are contemplating joining the Daesh. A prerequisite for its efficiency is the possibility of choice at hand. The door out is perhaps the subtlest part of the drawing, hinted at in the background thus situating the two routes at same place of the picture plane.

I am deeply grateful for all inputs and to Tony Daoud for furthermore translating saving me yet again.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Khamenei Threefold Incarnated

While Assad was not supposed to be given a face in that the revolution was about the Syrian people and not his person, the bloodshed has been going on for so long that a face is in order. This is a manmade catastrophe. Someone is actively perpetrating it and so that someone is responsible for each life taken.

He is consequently not so much a face as all movement as portrayed by Khalid Gueddar. Shielded by Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, the two of them mirror one another with a direct compositional downward line running from the gaze of the one holding guard to the one adding to the pile of the slaughtered. All of it made possible by the floating of the robe of thick oil.

In the Nordic languages as well in German, we have a word for what we are seeing: Khamenei in selvtredje/själv tredje/selbdritt. As in having three incarnations, each incarnation responsible for propagating the next one. Oh, and the drawing is already two years old:

Khalid Gueddar, 2013.

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

Friday, 27 March 2015

Binary Darkness

For the first International Day to End Impunity in 2012 Hussein Khuzam created the stencil below consisting of three parts. The three of them all the more poignant for not being drawn together; and so the culpability of two regimes, which would not for anything be interlinked, was laid out alongside one another for their silencing of critical voices.

Drawn to the essence beyond their actual faces, they are characterized through their glasses, beards and headgear, all of which is circumscribing their features:

Hussein Khuzam, stencil for FREEDOM GRAFFITI WEEK Syria
for the Campaign to End Impunity, April 2012.


At the beginning of the Syrian revolution
There was criticism directed at Saudi Arabia concerning human rights
Some Syrians told me not to be lashing out at Saudi Arabia in drawings as they stand beside us
Unlike Iran, which stands by the system and contributes to the killing of Syrians

Our position was clear

The paint running from the applied stencil,
but their precision is unshackled.
Freedom is indivisible, and we want it for everyone
And the wicked in the region are so regardless of present positions
Because we believe they hold but temporary political positions

There is no practical difference in terms of ideology between Saudi Arabia and Iran
There is no difference between them and Daesh and/or Hezbollah Iraqi Shiite militias

It is not possible to differentiate between the two
only the size of Death

Monday, 23 March 2015


Cartooning is a way of saying no without ending up with aggression, as Bonil stated in an interview last week

For that very reason it is absurd that humor is right now seen as an aggressor, he continued. Xavier Bonilla (Bonil) himself is being constantly threatened by the Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa and Bonil is presently caught up in the second of two lawsuits, the first of which went against the cartoonist. As an example of the presidential "Imagine, me against humor?!"-style, the British comedian John Oliver had his own set to with him here and the response here

Johan Oliver concluded that Correa need to learn to prioritize his time, not pursuing anyone mentioning his name and to weaken his hypersensitivity in the process. Such is the response from a free citizen in a democracy, while Bonil caught up in Correa's juridical restrictions of journalistic freedom deduced that politics and humor are married to one another. A marriage in the sense that citizens use humor as their act of resistance against the abuses of political power. 

Correa is a typical specimen of a political leader wiping out all traces of bad press. Still, he as everyone else knows the importance of being seen. Let him not be seen at all then, was one stance in the case of Correa's colleague al-Assad at the onset of the Syrian revolution. Posters of Assad's face had till then been glued to every piece of wall available in Syria as an ingredient to boost his tyranny. Consequently, the iconography of the uprising ought to contain anything but him and keep its focus on the call from the Syrians to gain their dignity. 

The bloodshed in Syria entered its fifth year last week with yet another poison gas attack this time chlorine used on civilians in Sarmin in the Idlib region. An all too fitting occasion to point him out, but this time as an un-being. Saad Hajo has drawn him in the negative in every sense of the word, marked on the paper by the absence of ink and placed upside down.

He is de-faced. An act of de-facing before our very eyes. Saad Hajo's drawing is an paragon of the fact that it is not an afterthought, but a participant in its day and age, and if we say that cartoons just as words create reflection, which in turn may lead to action, we can develop it further and state that cartooning is an act in itself. As such it is a democratic act seeing that it leads to further dialogue and arguments being made.

The drawing is not declaring to be a final word, although let us leave him de-portrayed.

Saad Hajo, February 11, 2015.
From his Series Shame, this is No. 78.

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

Saturday, 21 March 2015

"They say that we are uncivilized!"

By now their turbans have turned into an extended brain. Their eyes have sunk to the bottom line of their faces; eyes and exposed teeth becoming one in the process. Their opinions are in short one with their bodies, concentrated on letting out their outrage. I have a particular weakness for the hands of the one speaking; the fingers mimicking the teeth at which he is pointing to give poignancy to his words.

Flask himself uses direct speech in his line, working with a line at once deliciously dense and dirty and as fine as in barely there while ringing in details such as the frustrated wrinkles across their eyes. Flask analyses our day and age through a gallery of mis-fits seeing it all from a distance and yet fully active citizens in that they are dicussing and taking sides in the happenings of society. His pair of Islamists are for their part entangled in first world problems while pretending to be part of a higher order of another kind.

But qua being murderers, the Islamists are first and last nothing but mean criminals.

Flask, March 19, 2015.
The taking of hostages in a Tunisian museum has resulted in 21 deaths
- We make the effort of visiting museums and exhibitions
and afterwards they say that we are barbarians and uncivilized!
- Revolting!!

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

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Art Resistance

Nadia Khiari, WillisFromTunis, March 18. 2015.
- I am not afraid!
- Neither are we.

Paparazzi politics. Such was a comment I read only the day before yesterday's killings at the Museum Bardo in Tunis. The Daesh/IS is dealing in paparazzi politics, working all for show rather than content.

The reaction yesterday from artists we have met many times before on this blog was consequently prompt and unflickering; a response all the more impressive given the fact that their personal security is not a given.

A dilemma Nadia Khiari portrayed only moments after the fact that while Willis is looking beyond the situation he is in, they are focusing on him only.

Still, in spite of the exclamation mark Willis is in need of nothing beyond his own clear-cut figure, and his proclamation acquiesce with the writing on the wall created today by Zwewla in the south of Tunisia. With their newly acquired calligraphic voice, the wall aptly underlines the solidity of their statement:

Zwewla, March 19. 2015:
"Art Resistance
Your terrorism do not terrorise us!"

"We are not artists, we are simple citizens from Tunisia, trying with the help of walls to inform the world on the real problems of humanity..." as they wrote on publishing this their latest wall. The real world of human beings as opposed to the armed showoffs.

The artworks shown are courtesy of their artists.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Eyes that have seen all too much.

On the fourth anniversary of the bloodshed in Syria the still painfully young seer is seeking rest.

The sharp angles of two compositional elements respectively dissolves his body and supports his head. The resting is only apparent, though, Salam Alhassan is employing said elements to break up the figuration of the body of the seer on the picture plane. He is vanishing away before us:

Salam Alhassan, Tired, March 9, 2013.

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

Friday, 13 March 2015

Freedom of Pression

About the time when this blogpost was written on Thembo Muhindo Kashauri, he had been silent on social media for about a month. As had Alain Mushabah Massumbuko of Le Centre African de la Caricature and it was obvious what had happened. 

Obvious since their sudden silence followed from the publishing date of a drawing by Thembo Muhindo Kashauri on the protests which took off on that very day; an anger prompted by the delay of the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were to have taken place in 2016. The opposition labelled the delay a constitutional coup in that President Kabila claimed a census should be conducted before elections could be held. This would de facto postpone elections for an indefinite period of time, securing his presidency for just as long. 

And so the protesters took to the streets, colliding with the security forces: the latter afterwards denying having fired on the protesters, explaining away the number of corpses to be seen:

Thembo Muhindo Kashauri, January 19, 2015:
- We have a coffin for every peaceful protester who mentions the constitution!
- Send the supply to Kivu and lets us talk politics!
The worst clashings took place in Kivu

Thembo Muhindo Kashauri is at his very best here, staging the conflict on the streets from a next to impossible angle. No action is taking place, instead he presents each of the parties to us, next to one another, of which the tank is the major aggressor, representing the "Kabila Inc". Which of course has no intention of budging one inch, while the people is trying to make an impact through the word. The blood is running in our direction, this being of direct importance to us as beholders and consequently as contemporaries.

And so this happened:

Thembo Muhindo Kashauri, March 5, 2015:
- Freedom of Expression!
- Freedom of Pression!
Bula Matari ("Breaker of Rock") was the nickname for Sir Stanley; yes, that one.
Known for his brutality, he had a hand in the Belgian exploitation of Congo.

KASH is back!!!

- Thembo Muhindo Kashauri announced on March 5 with two drawings on the reaction against those voices daring to have spoken out and his own resolution as a result of having been silenced:

Thembo Muhindo Kashauri, March 5, 2015:
- Is it loaded?
- Yes! Mined in graphite, 0,12 mm!

This is thus a story on the cartoonist's own life being inextricably entwined with that of his present day.

Since March 6 we have yet again not have word from either of them.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Thembo Muhindo Kashauri and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Je suis sortie

If it had not been for the safety-pinned note he would probably not even have noticed. Actually, she might as well have been inside considering not even her shroud has detected any difference.

An actively absent entity in the public sphere, while not visibly absent when actually so. "I must make up my mind, which is right - society or I". Nora said, when she left Ibsen's A Doll's House in 1879.

Djamel Lounis, March 8 - The International Women's Day, March 7, 2015.
- I am gone

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

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Tortured Brain and The No Brained

We have just seen Laocoon as the center of debate whether to suffer in silence or dare expressing violent pain. The figure group itself is composed of so many elements that it is next to impossible to incorporate it into new layers of imagery, but Per Marquard Otzen has managed to do exactly that; uncovering the convolutions of the artistic brain of winding snakes and bodies twisting in pain.

PSST Per, you have given Laocoon his non-authentic arm; Michelangelo could tell you. Unless giving him that very arm is very much intentional in breaking with the unity and thus drawing attention to the anguish of the artistic process. An anguish for us to see only this once since the poet resembles those unhappy men, prisoners of the tyrant Phalaris, who let them be slowly roasted by a gentle fire - in the words of Kierkegaard - only their shrieks did not reach the tyrant's ear. To him they sounded like sweet music. Do sing again, people exclaim while flocking about the poet:

Per Marquard Otzen, Museum of the Mind.
The newly opened Museum of the Mind in London explores
the boundaries between art and mental illness
, February 27, 2015.
- do click the drawing to have its full impact before you

Amine Labter /Vit'amine! February 28, 2015.
- You have no soul!
- Why, I was thinking the very same thing about you!
Two short sentences in which the thinking
and the dignity in how to address one's adversary
is all on the one side.

Museums as the meeting place for thoughts and ideas from long before we were here and to be shared long after we are gone, giving food for new ideas, saw a sad week, when the Black Clad of Islamic State decided to show off their inability to think beyond the fabric wrapped around their heads.

Especially since destroying treasures of the past is one way of expressing the power of those majestic artworks. Iconoclasm is and always has been an act of idolatry. The artworks may not move much in any physical sense, as Amine Labter is drawing for us, but their immobility is a symbol of their longevity as opposed to the little men jumping around them.

Speaking of little men, there is a reason for their carefully staged filming, as Doaa Eladl has drawn. Taking even the cat as their hostage.

Doaa Eladl, February 19, 2015.
- Don't worry about being short. I can use effects to make you a giant in the video!
- OK! Can you also make my mouth spew fire!

The cartoons shown are courtesy of their artists and must not be reproduced without their permission.

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