Wednesday, 28 June 2017

"At the end of the day we all live on this earth together"

Photo and video: Jacob Crawfurd/

In late May Khalid Wad Albaih was in Copenhagen as the keynote speaker at the conference Communicating Worlds (2) by Timbuktu Fonden. Below is the video on our conversation on the stage, his words poignant and precise as always:

Below are but two excerpts of his words. Little Omran Daqneesh in the ambulance in Syria was a symptom of our social media with Khalid reflecting on own principles as a cartoonist of getting caught in the race of keeping up:

"I realized that news became my fashion. What is hot today. Omran is hot today. Tomorrow is something else. We can't do something on Omran today and tomorrow, this is left behind. The media and I find myself running with them in this hamster-wheel, so am I creating change or am I just part of this ongoing take away-news? What am I doing?"

Khalid Wad Albaih, August 18, 2016.

"Because I work on social media, because of the fact that you have to be now, you have to be there now, you have to think what you will do now, because nobody takes time to reflect. It is all about now".

"If you notice, there are keywords. Oh, the refugee crisis, so now everything has to be about the refugee crisis. You have to write and you have to draw about the refugee crisis. What is the refugee crisis nobody knows, but this is a refugee crisis. For whom? Europe is taking a lot of refugees. No, actually the largest refugee camp is in Kenya, you know, this is not real. These things are just words. ISIS is bad. This is how people think of them, when you think about something, ISIS bad. It is literally like a Donald Trump tweet".

Note Khalid's use of tempo and repetition. His words are a piece of poetry, making that very stress come alive in his listeners that is our public life and its lack of memory.

Khalid Wad Albaih, March 26, 2015.
"I did a lot of flags during the Arab Spring,
trying to reflect the real identity of it.
Flags as a whole is a really interesting subject".
We need to combine movement with memory, as he argues. The other side of that spectrum, memory without movement is exemplified in the importance laid on national borders, acting as if they had always been around, while in reality they are but straight lines drawn by a British general yesteryear.

Within shortly, said lines become deadly weapons in the hands of insisting nationalists. With which Khalid stated his particularly beautiful final words:

"As humans we should really understand that we move. Things change. History is very important just because whoever is here now wasn't here 200 years ago. This will not last forever. I think people should look at humanity, not look at man-made issues"

The khartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih /

The photo and video are courtesy of Jacob Crawfurd

White Wednesdays

Marilena Nardi, June 21. 2017.

#whitewednesdays is a protest on social media in which Iranian women are reacting against being forced to cover their hair. They either wear a white headscarf or abandon it altogether. 

Social media are their means of doing so in public while not able to do so in their physical sphere and let us support their voices with two angles of their protest: The necessity of taking their step and the peacefulness of their means of civil disobedience.

Marilena Nardi has drawn a woman all sharp angles and deep shadows to underline the opposition to being a shadow in all black. Her hair has turned out be the megaphone for her quest. She is not violent nor violating anything; on the contrary she is defining her own boundaries. It is not easy, nor without pain, but a movement of necessity.

The White Wednesday women are gaining their own wings as drawn by Mana Neyestani, the movement of which is running all through her body unraveling her entanglement. Note also, how straight lines turn out to be nothing of the sort, even the black of her former confining veil is gently floating in the background. The women have chosen the most peaceful of protests, while taking the first step to regain their dignity.

Mana Neyestani, June 21. 2017.

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

The cartoon by Marilena Nardi forms part of the cartoon campaign in support of the Iranian women by United Sketches.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"One cartoon at a time"

Detail of screenshot from the Oslo Freedom Forum video.

A close-up of the smiling Ecuadorean President-Elect and the cartoonist who drew him: Bonil telling about his professional life constantly under the threat of the WE SEE YOU! from a presidency on the verge of the despotic, if not already fully so.

Bonil was speaking at this year's Oslo Freedom Forum and it is as always heart wrenching hearing his words. He would never but stress the humorous elements of his situation, but it is one of ceaseless harassment and censorship, never knowing what will be the next from the President.

Bonil, The Breath of Censorship, April 28, 2015.

The drawn President-Elect is terrifyingly similar to the one who is about to leave office when seen up close. Correa has a set row of teeth, but they share the small chin within a heavy lower face. There is not much to hope for and everything to work against.

Bonil speaks the softest and clearest of Spanish, but if you prefer English subtitles, they can be added with a click on the video. In case it does not, a subtitled version can be seen here:

A particularly worrying aspect of Correa's regime has been the weekly assembly, in which he would be calling upon everyone to take part in harassing critical voices. "Visiting" and "mocking" them, as he constantly puts it.

Those are utterly dangerous callings. Humans have been lynched for less through the ages and this is a strategy on a national level under the guise of off-duty entertainment.

Screenshot from the Oslo Freedom Forum video.
The strategy is all the more obvious from the fact of Correa introducing a body of armed civilians with direct inspiration from the present Venezuelan regime. A civil guard with the authority to thrash adversaries. It is sickening even writing that sentence. It purports that the population has been made into a foreign enemy in a manner, in which not even conflicting countries should be assessing one another.

For the protection of authorities, as Bonil has titled his cartoon, establishing who installed said armed thugs once and for all and in Oslo asking us all to being vigilant as to the situation in Ecuador.

As for himself he will keep drawing in spite of the harassment to his person "one cartoon at a time".

Bonil, May 2, 2017.
Note the strong delineation of each of the faces behind the decision
- for us to recognize each of them from this cartoon forward.

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

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

"Why do you peel me out of myself?"

Marilena Nardi, The Skin, November 5, 2016.

"As she screams, the skin is flayed from the surface of her body, no part is untouched. Blood flows everywhere, the exposed sinews are visible and the trembling veins quiver, without skin to hide them: you can number the internal organs, and the fibers of the lungs, clearly visible in her chest".

Marilena Nardi, June 8, 2017:
Love, all of a sudden
"She kills herself for money, or from the sense of guilt, 
however, she always kills herself.
She even kills herself through the caresses"
Alda Merini.

I have taken the small liberty of adding the "s" to the "he" by Ovid on the flaying of Marsyas, Apollo reveling in the gory display of his powers.

It is not for the faint at heart reading Ovid, nor is it seeing Titian's masterpiece on Marsyas' skin being stripped off his body, and yet that painting has made it to be ranked one of the very best of all times.

Marilena Nardi is referencing the mythological heritage on the severance of the body. The female body is no longer the one of voluptuous promise, showing maximum of skin in anticipation of being raped by a Greek/Roman god.

That skin has already been wrung out. She has been raped.

Marilena Nardi, May 7, 2017.
"Those like me screaming in silence,
because their voice is not confused with tears"
Alda Merini.

That hand seizing the heart, wringing the female body apart. The destruction of her body on the promise of love. At once destruction and self-destruction, walking into her own demise. The female body is an entity against which actions are taken, some of them are actions of her own, emotionally and physically bringing herself beyond all boundaries.

Some of the present cartoons are quoting the poet Alda Merini, who wrote on a similar theme, in her case coming from a life of a deeply troubled mind, but Marilena Nardi is placing the violence portrayed in words beyond day and age. This is woman of all times wringing out her soul, at once wounded from without and bleeding from within.

Marilena Nardi, Thirst, January 16, 2017.

To this end Marilena Nardi draws with a line dirtied up and mixed into the annihilation of all clarity of color, a sickening greenish tint against which its complementary in the red of heart or raw skin is crying out.

Marilena Nardi, April 19, 2017.
The Solution:
"And then you find that one day it is you, who has the weapon, but do not shoot,
because he who hurt you is no longer of importance to you"
Alda Merini 

Note the tight muscle of the upper arm above clutching the hammer, freeing herself of the nail through her mind. A tiny detail underlined by the thickening of line next to it, with the center of the composition in the curving of her back, marking her determination in the straight line through the muscled arm and the exposed nipple of the place where her heart ought to be and leading on directly to the hammer. An operation physically as painful if not more than letting the nail stay in place. Yet, she is ready.

So too is Venus with her mirror. Not to enjoy the flawlessness of her skin, as we have always seen her. She has a job of pain before her; removing not so much the spikes in her body as the hearts caught on them, and while she does so, let us give the final word to Alda Merini on the soul of the artist:

L'imperative categorico del poeta è di morire prima di cominciare a esistere

The categorical imperative of the poet is to die before beginning to exist.

Marilena Nardi, The Grooming, April 26, 2017.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Marilena Nardi and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Aaaand Goa... No, Nope!

Maduro is posing for us in the Anatomia Cartooniensa on the entry: despot.

He is eagerly doing so in the role that is his, according to his self-perception. He insists on being at the centre of attention to which end he has constructed a narrative of being the saviour of the nation. 

The cartoonist, however, revolve the narration from goal to outcome.

Bonil places course and outcome into one compositional line. The despotic ego is no strongman. He has appointed special armed forces, in reality thugs and as such operating against any constitutionally obligations to protect. The citizens are left without protection in every sense of the word. The devastation is a catastrophe and the red grass is growing thick and dense.

It is the result of that one hiding back there, ready to call out the troops at anyone kicking off their rights to - to live, as it is.

Bonil, June 14, 2017.

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

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Coming Of Age

Detail of the cover of Børnetegninger 
by Simon Bang.
Wiping across the surface of a book fresh from the printer's, its smell filling the room - THAT smell - with the shock of OH NO! I have already stained the cover - and yes, we accidentally do that too all the time, only this time it is the print of the foxing of a paper from a while ago.

In the foxing we have the whole tale of the book before us; the dividing line of then and now, on drawings made by an artist, when he was still a child.

Børnetegninger (i.e. "Drawings by a child") with the subtitle "a 13-year old draws Fensmark and environs" by Simon Bang captures the spiral notebook of a child determined to qualify himself as an artist, while underway to coming of age, trawling his childhood countryside transforming it into motifs to be put on paper.

Simon Bang, cover of Børnetegninger. 

We have already met the early works of Simon Bang on this blog such as here and here, and twice interviewed him on the subject here and here (all of which are in Danish, alas). Each of the drawings were then on this blog as now on print presented with a short description in his own words.

Simon writes in as precise a style as he draws - then as today - each word to a point on recreating that color or the atmosphere he fought to capture on paper. He remembers every single intention of his drawings, a fact highlighting the intensity with which he was drawing.

Simon Bang, spread from Børnetegninger. 

Intention and intensity - in combination with child vs. artist, Simon Bang comes from a long line of artists. He was as such not just any child with a sketchbook. Art was knowing one's tools and techniques, just as it was a matter of his parents discussing with him at the end of a day, what he had been drawing. The drawings printed are from the year when he would sell his first works and soon after arrange his first solo exhibition.

We see a child, still a child, but actively pursuing his goal to become an artist. He is striving, fighting and endeavoring in every line. These are drawings all about seeking to achieve, the intensity of which has been so strong that he each time remembers, such as the texture of a color and his solution to conveying it.

The format of the sketchbook is that of the classical format for landscapes resting along a long horizon. It is perhaps one of the most interesting features of the book; how it is not Fensmark and its environs as such he has drawn. Each feature has been detected as to how it would work on paper. Simon has been testing his eyes, distilling what was before him according to the premises of art. He is composing while seeing, setting his goals constantly higher, such as catching the aforementioned color, which did all it could to defy being drawn.

Simon Bang, spread from Børnetegninger. 

The child drawing already had an artistic icon in the cartoonist Ib Andersen, son of Valdemar Andersen. Ib Andersen mapped his local landscape around Fredensborg, traveling the countryside in his jeep and stopping everywhere a sudden shower of rain might have left a puddle in which a light pole was mirroring its vertical lines. Never the nostalgic, but always the analyst, the landscapes of Ib Andersen was that of the 20th century of asphalt roads and light poles. The very combination Simon was testing in Fensmark.

Simon Bang, spread from Børnetegninger.
Interestingly, Ib Andersen at 13 had been testing the exact opposite techniques. He was dramatic, overly so, attempting to catch movement and stories of persons rushing or fighting. He was even trying to be funny at his own expense, drawing out his own failing exertions as a sportsman. He was thus trying to be a cartoonist catching that movement of line, which was his father's specialty. Ib Andersen would eventually become a cartoonist in his own right, doing the opposite of movement and portraiture. He specialized in the larger compositions for the Sunday paper for which his beholders would wait in anticipation all week.

Simon Bang, spread from Børnetegninger. 

The compositions of Ib Andersen were a serious matter to take lessons from. Obviously the results of hard work and analyses of every element of therein, a child eager to learn would do no less. Not yet at home within a style of his own, he is at this point hardly even a pre-styler, but he is just about to get there and we get to see the struggle he is putting into every part of the road.

Each drawing is a rich material on the learning process, in this case a child working on his own, albeit he would later get to have his work assessed at home. Yet he is an exemplar child, who personifies the layers at hand in any child and what is lost when it all too often puts down the pencil at just about that age.

Simon Bang, spread from Børnetegninger. 

Simon Bang, Børnetegninger; en 13-årig tegner Fensmark & opland, Multivers, Copenhagen 2017. The book can be ordered here.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Every Day...

... cartoonists across the globe are being threatened, prosecuted or live in fear for their life for what they do. Yet, they carry on, insisting on speaking out by way of drawing on what needs to be expressed.

Let us on a day dedicated to a once upon a time visit from The Holy Spirit to spread the word not limit ourselves to any one set of words. Let us underline the right to speak freely and to draw freely for every cartoonist in the world.

The pin can be ordered here.

Friday, 2 June 2017

"... But she did not come home"

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Mana Neyestani, spread from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.
This is a tale of two artists, although that is not how they are known to the world.

The one is an authority deciding on right and wrong in society. The other is the victim daughter of a victim. The female child of a woman of no worth according to the world she was living in and yet she was raising two intelligent young girls.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.
Till now the story has been told the other way round. It was told through the man, who had found a cause in life.

He was a serial killer.

He murdered women, who had been forced into prostitution as a last resort to make a living. Some had a drug addiction to cope with the conditions of their life. 16 women lost their lives when they came across that man. Some of them had children waiting for them at home.

The murderer would return to the place where he had dumped the latest body much like a pyromaniac can be found among the onlookers excelling in seeing his flames.

At one point the investigator/judge - because the two are one and the same in Iran - exchanged words with the murderer. Saïf Hanaï gave his killings a moral reasoning: His hometown needed cleansing. While the onlookers were expressing their sympathy with the life lost, Hanaï spoke out on God looking on in approval that someone had taken it upon him to cleanse the corruption of the streets.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.
Mana Neyestani has created his graphic novel L'araignée de Mashhad on a true story, of which a documentary And Along Came a Spider was made by Maziar Bahari, with Roja Karimi Majd interviewing the murderer in prison. Both journalists are internationally acclaimed, now living and working in exile.

A well-documented story, the fact of which Mana Neyestani takes to another level through his specialty in the meticulous detailing. The already known is taking to their extremes, such as the inclusion of the noisy pattern on the floor in the interrogation room, in which the journalists were allowed to film the murderer.

Mana Neyestani keeps his distance from speculating on the mental disposition in murdering prostitutes. This is not about sexual arousal nor is it about the one person. This is a story about a murderer, which is not at all about him.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Hanaï is the symptom of a corrupted society, as opposed to usually blaming the women forced into prostitution. 

Hanaï was the result of sending young men into war on behalf of the state. Those who return twist the reason of war into civil life, finding mockery where there is none, seeing adversaries, which need to be removed in order to win the justice of war. 

The artist combines in composition what others need to leave hinted at. Half-naked women seem to step on fallen comrades. When Hanaï's son explains his father's murder technique step by step, laying out the brilliance of the deed, a murdered woman is laying at his feet when we leave the scene. 

Mana Neyestani lets in the tiny fraction of a satisfied smile on the boy's face when lying on this knees strangling the pillow. A repetition across a spread of two pages in the book is each time not at all a repetition by the time the very drawing is shown for the last time, even if the portrayed insists on having given away nothing.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Mana Neyestani constantly takes us to the cracks in the tale. In the documentary the judge is sitting in front of a wall that has seen much better days. The judge in Mana Neyestani's novel is then a calligraphist, inking out the religious principles of all living matter. Balance is an inner truth to be sought and found and immediately put to the test as the inked paper is framed and hanged to cover the cracks for a little longer. 

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Hanaï was hanged to hammer home, who gets to define right and wrong.

Mana Neyestani, page from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.
He challenged the power of those in power. In one of those scenes heavy with twists and clues of which the novel is brimming, the judge discovers his lunch bread takes on the divine balance when divided and shared with his driver. His driver on the other hand notes how none of the good fillings found their way into his half. 

The epilogue diligently describes Hanaï's anger, when he realizes the hanging is going through in spite of his conviction of being a public hero. His anger is written, not drawn.

All the while a little girl is drawing. Samira opens each chapter just as she gets her very own. She is testing and trying her skills to be able to one day to tell the tale of her mother to the world. A tale of how pretty she was and how kind.

This is a tale of two artists, created by an artist.

Mana Neyestani, Detail from L'araignée de Mashhad, 2017.

Oh, and all of the above is but the outline of what Mana Neyestani's L'araignée de Mashhad contains.  It is a many-layered tale deserving many an intense reading. There is a son not least, who has found a goal in life in his father's example. He is one of how many?

Mana Neyestani, L'araignée de Mashhad, Arte Éditions / Éditions ca et là, 2017. It can be bought here.

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