Monday, 28 November 2016

"Why pinch when u can punch?"

When the Malaysian authorities closes an exhibition under the pretense that it is undermining the state, why then it is high time for us all to taker a closer look on the "crime".

This time in the rest of the world.

Zunar exhibiting in a square in Malmö last December,
A venue not unlike the one, which was closed down
Photo from AmnestySweden's Instagram.
So grab a good cup of tea or coffee, sink into your preferred corner of the world where you may be undisturbed and indulge in the universe of Zunar.

His cartoons consist by now of many layers of symbols on how Malaysia is run and his audience expects to find every single one of them in each cartoon.

While you browse the exhibition below in your preferred pace uninterrupted by my words, let us just recap the protagonists: the heavily nostriled Prime Minister Najib and his big bag of unlawfully grappled money, pushed forward in his enterprises by his wife of big black hair and a ginormous diamond ring. The police officer that has charged Zunar for tweeting is constantly tweeting and the WCM represents as far as I know the press licking up anything they are told.

And then there is the Rakyat, the people.

Only fragments of the hints are possible for us to grasp, but the tale is unmistakable and the beauty of Zunar's cartoons are beyond question. The greed of the protagonists is undressed in all its ugly nakedness before us and yet the more ridiculous the more alarming they prove to be. The mountainous double shadow of a judge or my favorite, the mosquito pretending to rub the back of the people, while filling its own belly.

Every cartoon is an economical transaction, the protagonists' preferred kind of dialogue. Zunar constantly plays on words with a special eye for twisting a letter or meaning across languages, such as the man of steal above.

But now it is time for me to keep quiet:

Saturday, 26 November 2016

On Violence Against Women

Women and girls constitute half of the world's population: the violence against them consequently constitutes a pandemic.

The portfolio of Doaa Eladl contains some of the strongest cartoons we have on the situation of women, proving as relevant in Saudi Arabia as in Europe at the very same time, which speaks of her mastery in nailing the problem.

For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Doaa Eladl has re-used the present cartoon consisting in layers in doubles. For one thing a painted imagery is imposed upon a penned one, and the painted hand - with the paint lacking in places just as it would laying hands on her on the paper - is at once the perpetrator and the STOP, just as the black eye of the battered woman is at once bruised and highlighting her direct gaze at us. Ad to this how the situation of violence within the cartoon is as messy as the message is clear.

Thus draweth a master.

Doaa Eladl, November 25, 2015.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Doaa Eladl and must not be reproduced without her permission.

The Lizard Tongued

Below is the latest cartoon by Zunar, who has been held at a police station in Penang for the past hours.

The detention follows from a week of attacks against Zunar' latest exhibition, with "protests" against his satire on Malaysian politicians, which in turn "forced" the police to close down the exhibition and Zunar's detention may come from allegations that he set up some kind of resistance? Zunar, really? However the specifics, this is all too neat. A chance taken to close down his exhibition, while taking his own person into custody.

Zunar, November 24, 2016.

It was not even a year ago he told us in Sweden, how nobody knows what the Malaysian prisons are like, since all is silence from within.

We shall of course continue to make noise on his situation of which the cartoon above is from the day before yesterday on the arrest of civil rights activist Maria Chin Abdullah. Prime Minister Najib has by now morphed into a clawing prison, with his diamond ring for a wife and bag of unlawful fortune at hand.

Note in particular the police officer. He is the one, who carried out the detention of the cartoonist.

ETA November 27: Zunar was released on bail two hours ago. At least and for now he is free. His trial in which he may be sentenced 43 years of imprisonment is set to January 24.

 As always as ruled by Zunar his cartoons must be spread as much and as widely as possible.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Prison Swap

So... the logic in Erdogan's Turkey, propsing to abolish the unlawfulness of underage marriage, is as follows:

1. It will boost the birth rates, which has been a key point in Erdogan's politics, considering little girls may be mothers at the age of 12 and they will be beautifully married too.

2. Child rapists shall no longer be termed rapists. They will be pardoned and since about 3,000 rapists used to be imprisoned a year, they will leave room for the teachers and journalists, with whom Erdogan has crammed the Turkish prisons. There are no teachers left anyway, the girls may as well be raped - sorry married - and begin bearing children instead.

Let us call it for what it is: a prison swap.

The little girls too will now be in a prison of their own for the rest of their lives.

Vasco Gargalo lets Erdogan's face be seen fully frontal as in a mug shot to make no mistake, who proposed the swap Presenting the precious young life in one of those sickening sweet boxes, heavily embellished to disguise the cheapness of the transaction. We could call it a coffin.

Vasco Gargalo, The Engagement Ring, November 22, 2016.

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

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Flaying of Mankind

Xaquín Marín Formoso, Polyphemus, 2015.

Xaquín Marín Formoso, Funnel, 1976.

Humans are anatomically raw in the cartoons of Xaquín Marín Formoso, cartoonist, theorist of cartooning and founder of Museo del Humor de Fene.

The humans before us have been flayed. Their skin torn off them, leaving them stripped to their muscles and bones.

Flaying is a death sentence. Flaying has been with us since Antiquity to a degree that it is part of the art historian terminology. It has a visual violence to it, which has appealed to Greek gods and despots alike through the ages.

By flaying the skin, the individuality is forced off the human, all by which he or she can be known. The protagonists before us are of the same shape as the weaponry and debris, which make up their physical world. Their anatomy mirrors the shiny metal, only they themselves are raw and soft, making the realization of the true state of their physical presence all the more painful.

They may be stripped of their individuality, but their emotional range of anguish, fear and pan is all there and we experience their fear and their anguish since it is our own. This is our world before us.

There is a span of nearly 40 years between the two cartoons above. The one-eyed giant - he who eats his prisoners - is from last year, while the silenced speech to the right was drawn in 1976; the year following the death of the Spanish dictator Franco and a democratic Constitution was as yet on the drawing board. The mouth has been forced open to give it the appearance of freedom. The Galicia of Xaquín Marín Formoso and with it Spain as whole know to the bone the vulnerability of democracy.

Xaquín Marín Formoso, The Dogs of Life, 1978.

The sense of transition may turn out to be the true state of mind as of society. The attempts are made to transition into a democracy and the transition in Spain did indeed prove successful. Yet, the state of alert is constant. Democracy in modern times is still a young political practice and at any time a one-eyed despot is heading an organization, while just as regularly corruption, racism and ecological calamity all join abuse of power as candidates to new structures of society. 

Xaquín Marín Formoso, Creation, date unknown.

For that very reason Xaquín Marín Formoso has returned to Neoclassicism. The  
-isms of Modernism which disrupted the visuals as we knew them to see the world anew in the years before the Spanish Civil War are too painfully connected to the politics of that time in history to be of inspiration.

So, rather than dissolving the human form, Xaquín Marín Formoso has wrung out the inner of man keeping the outer form, exposing our vulnerability to its raw state. The human form is then exposed to a visual chaos, which in fact turns out to be a visual concentration, seeing how each composition is building up to a calling out of desperation and pain, be it even a silent one coming from the throat slit by dogs. 

The double take on the artist's own hand, creator in composition as in calling out is before us too, although his personal favorite is the cartoon below. The quiet pain of a Gulliver forced to accept his situation of not fitting in. For once an idyllic world, perhaps since it is closing ranks against the newcomer outside. Drawn in 1975 and all too relevant today:

Xaquín Marín Formoso, Black, 1975.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Xaquín Marín Formoso and must not be reproduced without his permission. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Why Even Pretend?

We actually have imagery of how the globe should be cared for. The Little Prince nurtures his planet and his flower, sweeping the one clean and watering the other. A care, which entails positive action and outcome - albeit fictional - for us to go and do likewise.

Yet, action and outcome in our de facto world are ominous hands as drawn by FadiToOn with the statement: As long as the factories are still running in China and the United States have a president-elect who denies the existence of pollution, why even stage COP22?

FadiToOn, November 7, 2016.

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Reign of The Passive

This date marks the enactment of laws altered to the purpose of murdering a section of the population to an extent that it turned into a genocide. The onset was named The Kristallnacht as in the name of the glass of their shop windows shattering as the sound of their lives and livelihood were removed from daily German life on November 9, 1938.

Firuz Kutal, October 25, 2016.
Bana ne? = It is not my business, it is not my problem

Anxious, unemployed, protest voters had been one means of installing the powers, which then went on to take steps to enact the genocide. Meanwhile the protest voters turned into passive, fearful sheep. 

Today we have once again been witnessing protest voters coming out in flocks, this time in the US and while we have nothing good to expect from the demagogue they elected, we ought to remember George Orwell's words cited today by David Remnick in The New Yorker "that the relative freedom we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection (...) If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them".

Looking back and 1938 and what came after, the disposition of the private citizen has been intensely discussed ever since. Did they know? In his postscript of If This Is a Man Primo Levi makes an equally clear position as Orwell: Oh yes, how could they otherwise - I am paraphrasing - the murder took place on a scale that everyone would have been linked to someone in the know or the action. Only they chose not to know. They chose ignorance. The one who knew was quiet, the one who did not know did not ask and the one who knew did not answer. They taped their mouths shut and closed their eyes. They nursed their ignorance, as Levi concluded: Considering their deliberate passivity I consider them unconditionally guilty.

As it happened the two present cartoons came about at the very same day a few weeks ago. The happy colors of lameness of Erdogan's Turkey, in which large droves of journalists, writers - cartoonists - and teachers and and... have been arrested with the remains of the public looking passively on: "It is not my problem".

From an Iranian perspective Mana Neyestani has portrayed the political prisoners with those willfully ignorant, who sanctioned the imprisonments. They make up the prison chains - drawn with a simple line of white on stark black in contrast to the textured nuances of the life they assist to kill off.

We have nothing good to expect from the US in the coming years. They have now officially joined their lookalikes in places such as Turkey and Iran. But we shall not for one minute regard them as innocent in what may take place. And we have the cartoonists to prove it.

Mana Neyestani, October 25, 2016.
"To our political prisoners, excuse us all of the recent arrests".

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Firuz Kutal and Mana Neyestani and must not be reproduced without their permission.

The President-Elect

When Trump first appeared on the political stage, cartoonists everywhere delighted in the fact that he did not tick anything on the list of non-touchables. He was a white, middle-aged male and he could be drawn as outrageously as his actions.

Only, it was a sad enterprise. Or as Thomas Frank writes in the Guardian today: "There is a darkness about Trump that negates that sort of humor: a folly so bewildering, an incompetence so profound that no insult could plumb its depths".


The present cartoon was drawn during his campaign. This is the temper we have ahead of us. The timing of Magnus Bard's humor has cutting precision. It is each time of the ouch kind.

The cartoons of Magnus Bard are at first sight as clear-cut as his ideas, but then tiny details emerge as in this case from a perspective of endlessness manifesting how this man turned out to be the president elect.

by Magnus Bard

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

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