Saturday, 30 September 2017

Activist and Artivist

Ramón Esono Ebalé, page from Obi's Nightmare, 2014.

In the album La Pesadilla de Obi (Obi's Nightmare) from 2014, its artist Ramón Esono Ebalé drew the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang waking up into the worst of his fears: Having to live a day as a citizen like any other. Water has to be fetched and corruption is everywhere; losing his every battle to make it through the day.

Injustice prevails. Obi does not make it in the story. His eye opener never led to anything, but his attempt to save himself.

Now Obiang and his regime has in turn imprisoned Ramón Esono Ebalé, who had to visit Equatorial Guinea to have his passport renewed. He has been imprisoned close to a fortnight in a prison with a reputation just as he drew it.

We fear of his well-being and there is a petition for #FreeNseRamon

A Dilemma of Democracy

Democracy finds itself in an uncomfortable position time and again at which the despots of this world will but laugh scornfully.

Magnus Bard, September 23, 2017.
"- oh, but look, what a nice van...
- and here we have modern art...
- where do you get it all from?!"
The information poster in the background reads "How to demonstrate in a democracy"

Such as when anti-democrats exploit their democratic rights.

Today Nazi sympatizers will be marching in Gothenburg. They are allowed to do so according to the law, if they apply for permission beforehand. The police having no legal impediment to say no, grants it to them.

This time around the court has been heard, ruling a change and shortening of the marching route, but the anti-democrats have achieved all they could wish for, having made headlines in the press for weeks.

Fearless as always, Magnus Bard has put his pen where it hurts the most. The anti-democrats are not our protagonists here. A representative of democracy takes center stage. The police are in the role of the supportive parent, wishing to do the right thing, literally stretching to cover citizens of all kinds.

It is a dilemma of democracy that basic elements to it existence can be used to undermine that very structure. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", as stated by Edmund Burke. Democracy is not a resting, fully developed entity. Reaction is constantly needed in words as in deeds.

Drawing the anti-democrats and the dilemmas they pose is an excellent example.

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

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

"I am, I am, I am"

Marilena Nardi, The Trust.
As a student at our National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst), it fell to me to go through the museum archives.

Archives are the deposits of saucy dirt and I found the answer to a question sent from the Department of Education about the time of the inauguration of the museum in 1896, whether it, given its status, would offer positions to women?

The answer was as short as it was definitive: Women lack the training and education needed - we have no use for them.

I sent a copy to my mentor, Louise Arnheim at the Royal Library and she uncovered their rather specific answer: Nope! No way and no thank you. Women will only swipe down the books from the shelves with their skirts.

Cultural reasoning to the biological question and no one saw the difference.

Marilena Nardi, Psyche and Analysis (S. Freud).

That man of the many words above. He was but one of those constructing theories on female existence according to his personal accommodation.

Marilena Nardi turns the table on Freud, taking him on his word. As always she has kept the color at a minimum so that nothing shall take away our attention from the deformation taking place before us. Yet, he sees nothing of what he is causing to the female body.

Marilena Nardi, Suffocating Love.
The deformation of the soul. She is Psyche, the personification of being alive, literally to breathe.

Marilena Nardi has drawn the bell jar of more than the tormented woman sealed off to the world; she has added the reason why. This is the heart of the tormented and her attempt at clawing a way out, of calling out, and in spite of the bright light she is exposed to, a shadow falls across her face.

Winging herself open, starving for oxygen, with the sense that the oxygen is being eaten from her, to paraphrase the poem Tulips by Sylvia Plath. The Bildungsroman of woman involves a mental institution.

A woman in literature breaking the mold of her life to forge a path for herself, does so in the name of passion, we have learned through the past centuries. Tragedy looms ahead. She goes mad or ends up underneath a train.

And Sylvia Plath has so far been defined by her death, not her writing.
Marilena Nardi, June 16. 2017.

So let us change the angle from that of implosion and reflect pain, struggle, courage and passion for the grandeur it deserves in the same light of how we see the traditional male fictional figure.

The women before us fight for their lives and they bleed for it, but they do not perish.

Marilena Nardi, Pain, December 10, 2016.

We recognize in the artworks by Marilena Nardi the bodies before us from the greatest of artistic expressions. The exertion into utter deformation. That is grandiosity on the scale of The Sistine Chapel.

In his 1753-treatise The Analysis of Beauty William Hogarth sighed how Michelangelo at one point in his life included snakes ad nauseam in his compositions.

A snake serves double duty by being a meandering line, the beginning of all drawing, as well as bringing the drama by being added to the pyramidal shape of for instance the placing of a human body. The pyramid is the perfection of proportionality, brought to life by the swirling line around that nude human body, immobilizing him, while he will struggle back, almost bursting his muscles in the fight for life.

Look no further, a body striving for its pyramidal composition, at once achieved by way of its shadow and sabotaged by it. The bodies by Marilena Nardi battle a textural drama between the smooth sensuality of the marble and the accents of the humans within, bleeding from their wounds.

Marilena Nardi, The Shadow, June 20. 2017.
- not an illustration of, but accompanied by the words by Alda Merini:
"Those like me look forward, even if the heart always remains a few steps behind"

Hogarth was paraphrasing the 1584-treaty on the arts by Paolo Lomazzo, who would define certain characteristics to specific artists. "Movement" was ascribed to Michelangelo.

Of Lomazzo's categories, Marilena Nardi fits just the one of Michelangelo. Not to take from Raphael nor Leonardo, but in Marilena we have she, who dares to go all the way of limbs out of proportions, bursting, breaking asunder, testing how far she can take her idea and driving each new drawing beyond the ones that went before.

For comparison a face would grow mythological flowers in a painting by Botticelli. The woman of Marilena Nardi grips the flowers and reverses the movement for her own need. The bending in extremis of her wrist teases the move from fluid femininity to determination.

Marilena Nardi, Spring, March 24, 2017.

Bleeding from their wounds, but not dissolved. Let us give the last word to Sylvia Plath from The Bell Jar in which the protagonist takes part in the funeral of her friend, who hanged herself. Whereas the protagonist:

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am".
Marilena Nardi, The Rock

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

Sunday, 10 September 2017


Tomorrow Musa Kart will be back in the courtroom. He was imprisoned for half a year awaiting trial, the first week of which set him free this summer. Now his court case is to be resumed.

Below is his opening statement in full from July. It has the potential of becoming a manifest on cartooning.

Musa Kart at once defines and exercises before us the mind of the cartoonist. Connecting ideas, seeing likenesses across situations and in juxtaposing them exposes the absurdity.

Sharp, fast, clear - and kind. The independent mind of the intellectual, exerting in the words of Musa Kart "inquisitive freedom" with which he delineates the necessary requirements for the cartoon of quality:

"Courageous and independent viewpoints that have broken free of cliché and standardised forms are what make for a true and effective cartoon".

But let us turn to his words in full; the English translation is by This post shall be without imagery. Let the words of Musa Kart take centre stage:


By Musa Kart

This is my written statement in response to the indictment.

I am a cartoonist. I have been drawing cartoons for thirty-five years. Instead of writing long and winding expositions, cartoonists pour out their feelings and thoughts directly, in a striking and energetic form.

Today, I stand here as the respondent to allegations that are unjust, baseless and impossible to come to terms with; allegations the unfairness of which is quite extreme.

I am facing a prison sentence of almost twenty-nine years. What is more, we also know that the prosecutor who is making these allegations is being tried on the grounds of ‘Being a member of the Fettullah Gülen organisation and of attempting a coup’.

Yes, I am being tried on the grounds of ‘Serving a terrorist organisation to its benefit by way of one’s actions, whilst not being a member of a terrorist organisation and not committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organisation’!

My response to this will be both short and sweet:

I return the exact same accusation!

How terrible it is that on the 15th of July 2016 our country was the stage for a coup attempt that resulted in the death of two hundred and forty-nine of our fellow-citizens and the injury of thousands.

The ensuing mistakes and weaknesses that were displayed in the fight back against those who were involved in the coup-attempt confirms the legitimacy of my reaction.

I am not a strategist. But my intelligence and common sense tell me the following:

Those who were involved in the coup-attempt, the acceptance of which is absolutely impossible in a democracy, should have been isolated as a first course of action. Instead, the prosecution has made a grave error in targeting Cumhuriyet newspaper, many of whose cherished and distinguished writers such as Uğur Mumcu, Ahmet Taner Kışlalı, Muammer Aksoy and Bahriye Üçok paid with their lives in the struggle against all manner of terrorist organisation. And following this, the pre-trial detentions of almost nine months, which are in fact criminal punishments in advance have proved to be the breaking point, and have resulted in a heavy blow to the cogency of the fight against FETÖ… I would like to ask the prosecution: Did you hear the applause coming all the way from Pennsylvania? Because I heard it loud and clear in my Silivri cell.

Years ago, I drew some cartoons drawing attention to the fact that Fettullah Gülen was developing an organisation within the state. How tragic it is, and also how comic that I am being tried today by the testimony of people who were at Gülen’s right hand.

Yes, I have had the privilege of being Cumhuriyet newspaper’s cartoonist for twenty-three years. If some unprejudiced research had been conducted in this case it would have been seen that my signature is there, under the most scathing cartoons of terrorist organisations, primarily those of FETÖ. And the fact that these anti-terrorist cartoons have appeared on the front page for the last six years is further proof that my paper should not be held up as being aligned with a terrorist organisation.

Essentially, the cartoon is an art form of an age in which a free mind and inquisitive freedom of thought began to express themselves.

It is against the very nature of things for cartoons and their creators to align themselves with a culture of submissiveness and with entities that are unbending and based upon crude hierarchical relations that promote violence. Courageous and independent viewpoints that have broken free of cliché and standardised forms are what make for a true and effective cartoon. Conversely, organisational structures based upon strict hierarchical relations cannot create a platform upon which a cartoonist can seek the freedom they need. Whilst organisational structures that are based upon violence rely upon taboos, the role of humour and of cartoons is to categorically destroy taboo. For that reason, those opposed to democracy do not like humorists and humorists, likewise, have no time for structures that worship violence.

In the face of this reality, to accuse a cartoonist of aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation and to punish them with a heavy prison sentence is not only a great misdeed to the cartoonist, but to this country itself.

In actual fact, caricature is synonymous with critical thought. If you look at the research conducted by the OECD on critical thought and problem solving, the proportion of young people in Turkey capable of a high level of critical thought and of putting up opposition is only 2.2%, whereas the average rate the OECD found was 11% and this figure in South Korea stands at 28%.

We could have used caricature, especially in schools, to develop a sense of critical thought. But instead we have preferred to follow a legal process that will destroy it completely.

And I would like to say a word or two about the expert whose considerations have formed the basis of these accusations:

He is not a criminal lawyer who specialises in media crime; neither is he an expert in semantics. Neither is he a communications expert, by any means. So what is he? He is a computer expert. And he has worked solely in institutions that are close to the government.

You know how it is with teenagers when they discover new words, they like to cause a stir by throwing them around in front of their peers. Well, the new word that our expert has discovered is ‘manipulation’. In almost every sentence of the report he seems to be saying, ‘I detected a degree of manipulation’! From what this expert is telling us, it appears that he’s using the reasoning of a wolf who wants to eat the sheep on the other side of the water, saying: ‘You are manipulating my water!’

One of the terms he used to describe manipulation was ‘to veil the truth’.

In fact, the purpose of this report, which is the reason for journalists being unjustly and baselessly detained for nine months behind the thick walls of Silivri, is exactly this: To veil the truth. It is manipulation!

It was clear from day one that this indictment was loaded with inspirational material for a humourist. It was not just the opposition, but even the newspapers close to the government who drew attention to these farcical allegations.

And now everybody knows that the prosecutor who prepared this indictment is facing two life sentences and is being tried as a FETÖ suspect and for instigating the coup.

According to this indictment:

• Our newspaper has ‘so to speak’ been taken over by the armed terrorist organisation FETÖ/PDY, our newspaper had ‘so to speak’ defended a terrorist organisation and had ‘so to speak’ been its protector. There is no concrete evidence here at all, no membership of a terrorist organisation, but there is, ‘so to speak’, a terrorist organisation and this organisation has committed ‘so to speak’ crimes.

• If this is the case, we have been locked up ‘so to speak’ in Silivri for nine months!

• One of our colleagues is said to have made contact, and was able to make contact with a ByLock user at a time when ByLock did not yet exist.

• Our colleague who had parquet flooring laid in his house was accused of being a member of FETÖ because another customer of the man who sold him the parquet was a FETÖ supporter!

• I rang a well-known travel agent, one that has full-page adverts in all the papers, looking for a three day holiday in Bodrum and this phone call has been listed as evidence against me that I made contact with a terrorist organisation.

• Whilst I had been hoping to spend three days in a room with a sea view in Bodrum, I ended up spending nine months in a cell with a concrete view in Silivri. I don’t think that my experiences can be passed off as a mere reservation blunder!

This indictment has severed all contact with objective reality, is beyond the bounds of reason and cannot be taken seriously. It is frowned upon even by all those people who are not encumbered with a heart and a brain. It’s lost face even with them!

You will appreciate of course, that I could have made my own jokes about this indictment, but I didn’t. This is because good-mannered humourists know only too well, you don’t hit a man when he’s down!

The prosecution have worked for no less than five-and-a-half months and have prepared an investigation file that amounts, with its appendices, to thirty folders in order to show that we are in communication with certain terrorist organisations. Given this, there must be some expectation that one of us will confess the crime. But perhaps a task such as this falls best to a cartoonist!

Can you make a cartoonist confess? Let’s see!

Yes, in my life as a cartoonist I have aided and abetted only one organisation. And the name of this organisation is the ACC. Which is an acronym for All My Country’s Children. Among the members is my granddaughter, who is two-and-a-half. I know for a fact that children of the members of your board and children of all of our friends who are present in the courtroom here today are among the members of this organisation.

I asked my granddaughter what the purpose of this organisation was and she said:

‘Grandpa, we want to live like our friends in the west. We want our lives to be free and happy too. We want to live in nice stable homes and be taught in good schools. And we don’t want anybody to die, or anything like that.’

‘So, will you make me a member of your organisation too?’ I asked.

‘No, I can’t Grandpa,’ she said, ‘Because you’re not a child… But if you really want to, you can aid and abet us. You can draw for us.’

There you have it, my confession. The truth of the matter is, aiding and abetting this children’s organisation has been the meaning of my life. Instead of the threat of punishment, I have always feared being an embarrassment to our children!

As you will know, in 2016, Turkey was in ninety-ninth position out of one hundred and thirteen countries in the index on the rule of law. And we can all see that the situation is getting even worse in 2017. In all of the debates on justice there is no-one left saying ‘There is Justice in this Country.’ What we need to be able to live together is common ground and common justice!

May the first hearing of this trial that is being followed with interest by the whole world, be the miracle of a new era that will cause our faith in the law and in justice to blossom. I wish this not only for myself and for my colleagues, I wish it for my country.

When our homes were searched with a fine-toothed comb, no safes full of money were found nor shoeboxes stuffed with dollars! The Financial Crimes Investigation Board and the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund examined the bank accounts and movement of monies of ourselves and our family members. But they did not find evidence of one penny’s worth of irregularity.

For months now, our personal electronic devices, the headlines that appeared in our newspaper, our news articles, photographs, opinion columns and cartoons have been examined in detail and yet not one shred of concrete evidence has been found to show that we have aided or abetted terrorist organisations.

Yes, in this country everyone is very familiar with sentences that begin with a declamatory… ‘O!’

I would like my defence to be noted as, ‘O, CONSCIENCE!’


Saturday, 9 September 2017

She, Who Forgot To Travel

"In my own country, hostilities have not ceased in the far north; 
to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place
 just several days before I started out on the journey 
that has brought me here today".

Words spoken by Aung San Suu Kyi when in 2012 she was finally able to travel as a free person to Oslo to receive her Nobel Peace Prize awarded her in 1991. The situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar portrayed almost casually as the archetype of human violent nature.

Suu Kyi was at once pointing to and removing attention away from it by describing it as an eruption of violence resulting in "arson and murder" as in random violent acts rather than a long and painful pattern of violence so densely woven that we are facing a genocide on the Myanmar Rohingya Muslims.

That is not a condition in the general. That is a very specific plight, which needs intervention and yes, we know she is not the sole responsible. For one, she too has an adversary in the military. She is, however, the face of the Myanmar political situation. She created that face for herself and we see her refuse to comment by twisting questions or sending them right back at journalists.

The moment a denial has taken place or the attempt to reframe a matter; that person has taken on responsibility

She herself addressed it in Oslo as our being "still guilty":

"War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. 
Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, 
for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages".

Shahid Atiqullah has placed her in the dual landscape of an actual photo and her medal from the Nobel committee. The one exposes what she does not tell; the pooling of the blood undermines the other.

Given his portraits are public figures living well from being known as faces, Shahid Atiqullah each time lets his composition take on a grossly enlarged ego on his or her own word. He is giving said person a fittingly grossly enlarged head placing them in the situation they would refuse to see themselves, with their heads as personal pointers to their responsibility.

Suu Kyi is then just another one of those we know all too well.

She is morphing before us into a menacing red-anger, which has forced her out of her calm. She has actual movement strangulating the peace dove. Fergal Keane, who interviewed her in April for BBC, wrote that she, who was known for her stubbornness in the cause for freedom, shall now be known for her stubbornness.

And so, she ends up leading the knife rather than taking that important journey, she spoke of in Oslo:

"Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. 
But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, 
our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star
 that will lead him to salvation". 

Shahid Atiqullah, Stop The Genocide in Myanmar! September 4, 2017.

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

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