Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Khalid Wad Albaih at Christiansborg,
November 29, 2015. Photo taken by me.

Two cartoonists testing the notion of metaphysics. 

Their meeting is in physical time and space: Khalid Wad Albaih is in the dining room decorated by Valdemar Andersen at Christiansborg. Until now their communion has been of the viral kind on Valdemar's blog. 

They have in other words taken the meta before the physics against the etymological sense of the notion, which is of course not what metaphysics is about at all, and yet cartoonists are defined by questioning everything. In fact, the one cartoonist is seen examining the other. 

Which is all in the spirit of metaphysics.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

From the first day

At first sight it could be wrapping paper before us with the continuous nature of such a pattern.

The blurred edges lead us to a focus within the continuity, in which the human form of the single beings within the masses is once again to be detected. They are as much our fellowmen today as they are our ancestors. Humankind has always traveled in pursuit of hope and on the will to survive.

The French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira tweeted in her poetic precision on Migrant's Day on December 15: "From the first day people settled down all over the world, walking towards hope and joy, yet Aylan will never reach 15":

Juan Zero, December 21, 2015.

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

No Comment

Fadi Abou Hassan, the sketch for No Comment, June 14, 2015.
You are lost at Malmö Central Station.

You are finding yourself at the second floor of the car park and not too certain, how you got there.

You locate a way out, relieved to be thrown aback by the wind, because surely that is a sign of rescue? Still, you have no idea, which world corners go where, while you are zigzagging your way along the massiveness of a station, which has sprouted new sections to all sides.

There is a logic to it somewhere, and yet is too massive to be detected by way of the human scale when walking around it. It seems brutal of character since each of the sproutings are without a trace of a welcoming spirit.

Right then, when you doubt that there is a meaning to be found in any of this, a cartoonist calls your name. He presents you with one of his original drawings and you realize that you have just experienced in person what cartoons do for us.

Fadi Abou Hassan, No Comment, June 14, 2015.

They do not pretend that there is a meaning to the absurdity of life. On the contrary they address the absurdity and by doing so make it possible for us to grab it and to discuss it. The right hand alone above with its pointy bones underneath the skin is a hand, which has seen too much.

Father Christmas is likewise leaning forward; his realization of the world no less cruel. I promised Fadi Abou Hassan that this would be this year's cartoon for the holidays. This one is for Aylan:

Fadi Abou Hassan, For Syrian baby Aylan Kurdi, December 8, 2015.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Fadi Abou Hassan and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

When you tighten the ribbon...

Anne-Marie Steen Petersen, When you tighten the ribbon... December 10, 2015.
- the title alludes to a line in an old Danish Christmas carol
in which a little girl is told to carefully unwrap her doll
otherwise it might get strangled in the ribbon.

Last week an outrage erupted at the printing of the cartoon by Anne-Marie Steen Petersen in the Danish daily Politiken.

I for one loved it on the day. There is a delay in the composition by which your eye is drawn to the light of the match, highlighting the face of the Minister of Integration, Inger Støjberg. Then, not till then in spite of his being in the very middle, you realize that there in the shadows below is a hanged man. He was a refugee by the state of his clothes. A sad life even in death.

For a day or so anyone with the need to enter the moral high ground by way of what is at hand, made ample use of Anne-Marie Steen Petersen's cartoon. This was a new low, we were told, seeing how it was pointing the finger at Støjberg as if she were to blame for the intentions of the government and the number of refugees out there. This is the danger of cartooning, it was bombarded, creating monsters out of servants to the state.

To this it must be pointed out that Inger Støjberg posted a comment on Facebook the day before the printing of the cartoon in which she stated in the opening line: "The Swedes do politics in Sweden - I do politics in Denmark!" - however much she might but be the one, who takes the beating for being the face on the government's politics on integration, she very much stresses herself in which direction the beating shall be directed with the constant use of the singular "I". Besides, she is the one responsible for carrying it out.

Mana Neyestani, The Values, October 22, 2012.
That said, there is a long tradition of the hanged in art history and in particular in cartooning, of which this blog has them in sad plentiful. Khalid Wad Albaih here for instance or by Fadi Abou Hassan here, and to any Dane there is hardly a tree or a ceiling in the works by Storm P. from which someone is hanging.

They all bear the same meaning of giving a voice to the most vulnerable. An imagery that carries an allusion to Christ in every human being.

Francisco de Goya, Capricho: Aquí no hay quien viva / No one is alive here,

For the very same reason the emphasis is not on the hanged, rather he or the noose seen on its own is a catalyst for the sickness that brought out the noose in the first place. Visually the hanged one has forcefully been put in a position beyond reacting. This is the work of others, and all that takes place around the hanged is exposed for the sickness it is: The absurdity of our society in which there is not room for all, to a degree that a show it made of killing off the outcasts.

It is the inner life of man, which is killed off, with which Mana Neyestani interconnects the one who has the action in hand with the immobilized one. Such is the strength of imagination that the swirls and the curves of tree may win the picture plane. The scene is highlighted as if taking place in a stage light. With the stark darkness looming in a halo above.

With Goya the gallows looms to the one taking delight in the sight, while revealing an endless row of the hanged in the horizon. And then, this week another set of gallows turned up, this time a predicament of what is the best option since our society kills off either way...

Mana Neyestani, December 15, 2015.

Christmas is creating a light at the darkest time of the year around these parts. The darkness is very much part and parcel of Yule tide, why we are meant to help those as best we can in less happy circumstances. If Christmas is nothing but sugar sweets, as the critics of Anne-Marie's cartoon would have it, then they are emptying it of meaning.

Anne-Marie has on all levels and in the best of sense created a classical Christmas scene, which would have been approved had it been drawn two centuries ago.

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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"Neutrality is escapism"

Zunar closest to the camera with Fadi Abou Hassan, drawing in the street
in Malmö for Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
in which Zunar's situation was one of five cases
focused on. Malmö, December 10, 2015.

Neutrality is escapism, in the words of Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque).

- If we see someone being burgled, we do not react with a "Well, I am neutral" and that reaction is just as absurd when witnessing corruption.

Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.

The photos in this blog post were all taken by me on Amnesty International's action Skriv för Frihet (Write for Freedom), in which Zunar took part on Saturday in Malmö. His cartoons were exhibited on the street, while he was drawing outside for everyone to meet him and talk to him in person. His colleague Fadi Abou Hassan joined him on the day.

Zunar is facing trial for nine tweets, for which he has been charged separately and may lead to a total of 43 years of imprisonment if he is found guilty. The trial is set for January 27, 2016. He is in other words charged for exercising his right to free speech and while he has been charged for tweeting, it is an obvious attempt to silencing the cartoonist within him.

- as he said, there is no transparency in the Malaysian prison system. Once in, no one will know the situation of the inmate just as the prisoner is totally sealed off from the world outside.

"If a cartoonist is convicted to 43 years of imprisonment then what about other people?" with which Zunar declares his battle:

"We have to fight for others with the means we each possess. If you have a dog, it can bite the prime minister's leg. Everybody has courage, but not everyone has the motivation to light it up. If you come across a tiger in the jungle, then suddenly motivation is there and you act. Through cartoons I have some advantage. I am an activist, I have opportunity".

Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.
Not even the overwhelmingly bright Amnesty-yellow washes out the energy of the line,
on the contrary the yellow enhanced it.
Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.
Corruption is stealing the money of everyone: "We are the ones paying", as Zunar said in a talk two days before the street action in Malmö and from which all of the quotations in this post are stemming. He underlined, how he is not a political cartoonist: His are cartoons for the people or people's cartoons.

For the same reason Zunar has removed all copyright from his cartoons for anyone to go ahead and spread them further. Talent is a "responsibility, it is my contribution to you all".

"Laughter is the best protest; laugh at him when the Prime Minister Najib is serious, not when he makes a joke".

Zunar, December , 2015.

Above, Najib's wife has grabbed hold of his ear, since he is but her puppet. She is the actual person in power in Malaysia to a degree that the legal system is under threat. In Zunar's cartoons she seems to have gained more of a face lately; an angry, twisted one, but her gigantic hair has as always room for hiding a multitude of illegally collected sins. 

Her mega-carat ring and the tweeting police officer, concentrating on silencing a free-speaking Zunar - while ignoring the corruption going on - are by now symbols called for in every cartoon by his beholders. They complain, if those two are lacking. 

The composition is thought out on paper before heading for the canvas
A bit of nerves are at play, since it is drawing in public

The first penciled lines are laid out
Zunar told us of his artistic process, having a composition in mind before he begins drawing. Said composition consists of four elements:

1) Information on the subject at hand, which must be correct and exhaustive

2) The composition must have a stand, alluding Zunar's trademark motto, that he ought and must take a stand, since even his pen has one

3) Direction, the layout of the cartoon must be direct and clear, in which content and intention blend into one another

4) The joke. Of the four, Zunar emphasized how the joke must be in line with the stand, otherwise it is abandoned.

and the lines are inked in

Content and right are two separate things, according to Zunar. 

"When I do not agree with everything within a cartoon, such as certain ones in Charlie Hebdo, then that is my right being a Muslim not to agree with them, just as it is their right to draw this. I must accept the right of the cartoonist.

It is fine, if you are not happy with it, but do not use law or weapon against it. Nobody has a license to kill."

With which Zunar drew the rightful conclusion that he is facing the very same situation as the Charlie Hebdo-cartoonists. 

Both situations are illegal according to the law, and while it is easy to accuse someone of sedition, it is enough to say "you have broke the sedition act" to carry someone away; it is another matter before a judge, when the specific sedition must be defined.

Note the pencil lines underneath the ink: the inked ones are bolder,
taking sharper turns once there is an image underneath to go from.
It must be said that they were drawing on canvas,
next to impossible to work on with a pen

The finishing declaration
"I am a believer. Who will face the 43 years, me or the Prime Minister?

As long as we do not take a stand, we are supporting dictators all over the world.

I will not think about 43 years. That would be self-censorship, and if I should begin to draw apologetically, they would have won. I only think of now, of today.

They have one mission: They want me to stop".

It was heartwrenching taking leave of Zunar at the airport. He has every right to flee his country, but he chooses to be present in court and prove his case on behalf of every similar abuse of power. We shall of course follow what will take place, wishing him well on every step of the way.

Friday, 11 December 2015


Below is the textbook example of misunderstanding a cartoon.

This morning Dennis Meyhoff Brink, Ph.D. and specializing in religious satire, reviewed Det lille rige med Svovlstikkerne by Adam O. in the weekly Weekendavisen.

Dennis focuses his critique one cartoon in particular on the murdered cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo: Why, the terrorists are nowhere to be seen?! Here is a bird dead from the lack of oxygen, and so are we to conclude that the massacred cartoonists are "reduced to a cute little bird" dying from said lack of oxygen? Apparently so since the terrorists are nowhere to be seen in the drawing, nor in the book as a whole.

This is an instance of a misconceived wish to protect those in presumed less happy circumstances than oneself. The terrorists should and must be exhibited, not sheltered.

Adam O. lacks the guts to speak the truth, with which Dennis sums up his critique.

Adam O., Paris, January 7, 2015.

In other words, Adam is ultimately lying?

Indeed not. Before us is a homage to the cartooning profession.

In fact, this is a portrait of the cartoonist. It may prove dangerous being one, but not so much from the lack of oxygen, but the reason for the lack of it: the poisonous gasses, which at times were released when mining. A canary was used in the coalmines to warn of such poisonous gas leaks. In other words the cartoonist are the sensors of our society.

The terrorists are indeed present as a danger to watch out for. Their visual absence is not about covering for them, as Dennis tries to make a point of. Their deed is as unhealthy, as it leaves us within a sad black density, which has to be reacted upon. Not so much fleeing from the mines in this case, as the disclosure of what they stand for.

The art of the cartoonist is to tell more with less means and in a way not seen before. The rest of us cannot advise nor hint at what they should do. If they were told to include the black clad each and every time, we are left with a new visual fundamentalism.

A major part of the terrorist's job is to be seen. The black clad are everywhere in cartoon art, in fact they are everywhere on this blog, as they well know themselves. Only it is not for them to decide when and how. That is why they oh so detest cartoon art.

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

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

In Times of Peace

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet will receive this year's Nobel Price for Peace tomorrow and on the day of the announcement the Tunisian intellectuals seemed unusually quiet for quite some time before uttering a incredulous, wondering, sarcastic REALLY???

Nadia Khiari, WillisFromTunis: Abbey Road, October 10, 2015.

Now of course the requirements to any peacework is stubborn idealism, hopefully coupled with organizational skills no less stubborn, if it is to succeed. All of which the Quartet (comprising the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers) comprises. They are agents to a political process, in the words of the Nobel committee, and to the prize is of course tied the cadeau of recognizing the one process of the Arab Spring with the most hope to it. 

Nadia Khiari responded by creating a confrontation between staged ideality and quite a few of old well-known cats among the noise above; the Kafka-reader in the garbage-bin for one, the police equipped with the baton and the faint-eyed of the nearly strangled.

The drawings above and below each comprises a complete scenery, which in itself is a rarity from Nadia Khiari. Add to this the amount of detailing, all of it calling out for attention. Every part of it very much accentuating her point on the amalgamation of naivety and manipulation immediately at play. Everything Peace comes cheap:

Nadia Khiari, WillisFromTunis, October 10, 2015.
The "Cafe of the Unemployed of Peace" is about to open
and as it is declared: "If this doesn't bring back the tourists..."

And yet, there is a side to the prize, which is as much a cadeau to the voice of Nadia Khiari and let us take the opportunity and place the cartoonist where she belongs, as drawn by Michel Kichka after the terrorist attack at the Musée Bardo in Tunis this spring. With a little tweaking her plinth is now a faintly Alfred Nobel in grey. Nadia Khiari speaks the language of peace against the terror in all its forms. NO FEAR Même pas Peur! YEAH!

Michel Kichka, October 9, 2015.

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Pardon me

Bonil, August 11, 2014.
In the final frame the customer is asking:
- Pardon me, are you working in the government?

The linework of the drawing above is dainty, almost fragile of character, embodying the vulnerability of the protagonist. We feel his predicament of being beaten at the very moment he is defining if his sight proves him right. Only to be told that he is lying; he is seeing wrong. To which he is unfazed asking a direct question, cutting through all that has gone before.

Simple as the drawing may seem, style and content are in utter symbiosis. In each frame the outlines of their bodies follows their actions. The slamming arm of the optometrist makes for a perfect circle, while the now visibly impaired customer is all leaning forward while reaching for his glasses. We feel the frailty in his wrist in its continuous reaching for the glasses on the floor before the realization sets in. This time in a perfect oval. Ultimately he is all edges when no longer afraid, openly confronting the one before him.

Bonil, June 11, 2015.
- Why are you taking them away? What was the crime?
- They saw the king naked

We have an ideal of the child in The Emperor's New Clothes dissolving all pretense by speaking up, telling the truth. Once disclosed the charade can no longer go on. But, really?

Bonil is the first at pointing out the likely outcome. How could a transition even take place? It would rather be a matter of a prompt reaction from the security grabbing the very ones, who spoke up, clearing away the problem. The security are all edges before us; each section of their bodies making a 90 degrees bend to the next. Even within the torso of the guard at the front left.

Bonil, February 23, 2015.

There is no reason to use subjunctives. There is no "would"; it is. The customer was immediately accused of lying, and "lying" and "lies" form the constant of the Ecuadorean President Correa's lashing out to his critics.

Still, the customer spoke his mind, just as the cartoonist does. As vulnerable as he is, a tiny physical being against the magnitude of the presidential institution, he does it anyway. The oversized pencil has been Bonil's trademark since being marked out as an aggressor; he has been sanctioned and told to "correct" one of his drawings, not to mention being summoned to a hearing - there is an air of inquisition about it as it has been so aptly put.

And yet the might of the pen is that he draws the presidential finger. The outcome is not a given as with the child, but a constant struggle for the one, who turns the pointing finger back at the powerful.

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

Thursday, 3 December 2015

"Enjoy the disgusting, politically incorrect world of..."

The text on the back of Gay Nazi Dolphins at a Gang Bang 
by Oliver Ottitsch, Holzbaum Verlag, Vienna 2015.

- and the cover drawing for the very same
collection of cartoons by Oliver Ottitsch

That ultimate one. The question of how humor occurs has been explained through history as a play with interference, inversion, repetition, the unexpected, confusion, parallelism, incongruence or contrasting.

In other words the meeting of two elements, independent of each other; two types of activities for instance, which are contrasted and from which emerges a third element, the reaction from seeing the contrast of the two.

Oliver Ottitsch calls that reaction a catharsis.

Catharsis is the yellow pus that springs from a wound, when it bursts, in his words.

His cartoons stays at that very moment of the yellow pus bursting forward while innocence is at once still intact and already hurt. There is no catharsic cleansing in his drawn universe. That version was undressed by Adorno as a piece of Kunstmythologie, a mythology of art. Rather, liberation is to be found in the disruption of the hegemony when that, which social mores forbid to be even wondered at and not at all uttered, has just happened.

From Oliver Ottitsch, Gay Nazi Dolphins at a Gang Bang.

From Oliver Ottitsch, Gay Nazi Dolphins at a Gang Bang.

As airy as each cartoon appears to be, often with a mass of white plane undisturbed beyond that of the confrontation taking place, they are founded in a point of beginning from where their story unfolds. The black of the mourners is the take off above, which is spiralled high up in the sky making for a blast to undermine all longing for comfort and hope.

Oliver Ottitsch incorporates a physical delay leading the eye of the beholder across the picture plane of which the winding queue is of course the most classic of all and all the sadder in that the continuation of the animal species are to be used for economical gain of the one person, who was given the responsibility of 
- well, everything...

Oliver Ottitsch, Gay Nazi Dolphins at a Gang Bang
The slogan on the side of the van says "Noah's Meats"

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Oliver Ottitsch and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

"My guise is also a malicious trick"

And then, on the very afternoon a pair of cartoonists team up, another gem turns up in the inbox creating a triad.

- It was the nose, as Per Marquard Otzen noted. That twisting and turning nose of Putin, snakelike by its very nature, has an uncanny likeness to that of the Danish extreme right-wing politician Pia Kjærsgaard. Since we have a referendum tomorrow, the timing is in itself uncanny of nature.

Other than that I shall say no further. This very gem is as much mesmerizing us into not seeing by way of...

Per Marquard Otzen, May 19, 1996.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Per Marquard Otzen and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Your guise is a malicious trick

Oleksiy Kustovsky, The Tempter Putin, November 25, 2015.

Sheer opulence of line work across a century. Oleksiy Kustovsky and Valdemar Andersen are visibly creating the very act of seeing before us; we see the intricacy created, the detail within each detail, the sectioning to let every scale catch the light in its very own way and the minuscule open or dotted closed rectangles. All of it at once before us for us to be willingly bedazzled. 

Willingly since we very well know this is the way of boa constrictors; the very visibility is there to make us not see what is before us. An image of all-out artistry thus turns out to be political to the core. The constrictor below was once an occupant of the Copenhagen Zoo; the imprisoned one too awaiting the right moment.

Valdemar Andersen, "Kvælerslangen", from Zoologisk Have by Kai Holberg, 1907.

The first cartoon above is courtesy of Oleksiy Kustovsky and must not be reproduced without his permission.

The title above this blog post refers to a line in the poem on the boa constrictor by Kai Holberg in the collection of poems "Zoologisk Have" to which Valdemar Andersen created the visual side. The translation is mine.

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