Khalid Albaih

Copenhagen has an ICORN cartoonist / Fribytegner of its very own. At long last!

Khalid Albaih with his family in Copenhagen, photo: LCL.

It took three? years to get to this point, but what a joy having Khalid and his family as part of our daily life. From a cartooning perspective it means witnessing his working process, which in his case comprises collecting information, not seeking answers, but gathering knowledge, questioning everyone and seeing everything. If you grumble against something he has stated, he will ask you for proof and links to see for himself.

This is still too crude a description: such is how any cartoonist works. What distinguish Khalid's work are his response time and the breadth of his horizon of interest.

If "response time" has an air of a scientific discipline to it, we are getting there description wise: Khalid rides the tide of the news, publishing his cartoons online on that very first surge of interest.

He may add another cartoon hours later on the matter, but that first one is his prime goal. The life of the Internet is the now, and anyone who wishes to have his or her say, has to abide to that fact, as he stresses.

The exercise is proven successful, when a cartoon takes on a life of its own.

To the degree that he is the one, who worries when he sees his own cartoons return as part of the news. Omran and Aylan, caught in a geopolitical game as they are, were coupled to mock the Western mantra of choosing your own life:

Facebook entry by Khalid Albaih on December 15, 2016:
"Every time I this image getting around I know things are at their worse".

The two boys are examples of Khalid Albeih's focus on the image as icon. The iconization of the otherwise random image in the never-ending streaming of images or maybe not so random given it has something, which arrests us and makes us pause; a potential in itself or with a bit of tweaking.

The media iconize the news in the attempt to arrest the user and keep their attention for at least a couple of seconds and as such the attempt is no different from the poster advertisers of a century ago, who would analyze how to catch the interest of the bypasses on the street, such as stripping the surface of the poster down to a title and a large central image with the contrast of no more than two colors.

Clarity and to the point today too, when the street is the screen of the phone. Khalid will strip the central motif off its setting, making it all about the bare elements of recognition. A stream, a seat, the red/blue color contrast of Eylan and the shadowing for blood and dust on Omran. The white in Khalid's works is no longer that of the paper, but the luminosity of the screen. This is not the language of naturalism; this is an image.

The beauty of the starkness is pulling at us. We see, what is not there. The boys before us are no longer boys. We see the need.

We see. Such was another instance of this effect, when Khalid saw the footage of Colin Kaepernick, the US footballer kneeling during the playing of the US national anthem. His hair secured his being seen with a straight back and in spite of his being of half his size while kneeling. Khalid combined him with the black power saluting athletes in 1972, which made Kaepernick the symbol of 300 years of deportation, violence, murder, poverty and lack of citizenship with the quest for respect and change in the 21st century so far.

Kaepernick is drawn fully frontal, playing on the difficulty of presenting him through the foreshortening of his body to accentuate how he is all decidedness in his having had enough. Anyone seen behind this piece of imagery will seem to be taking on his determination: I kneel with him!

And so Khalid's work is to be found on t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and - fittingly - mobile covers, with one copycat claiming to have had the same idea and at least four US and Chinese companies busily applying fresh batches of printed merchandize to the market.

If only the copyright of the cartoonist had been recognized!

Khalid Albaih, September 9, 2017

Khalid Albaih comprises three continents, being born in Romania, a citizen of Sudan and till now living and working in Qatar. His outlook is pan-Arabian just as he has a keen focus on the reactions in the Western world in combination and all to often in clinch with the rest of the globe.

Wherever he is, things happen. It is a privilege to have him in town.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Khalid Wad Albaih and must not be reproduced without his permission.

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