Monday, 31 December 2018

Cartoonist Portrait of the Year

Zunar, August 3, 2015.

Zunar can blow on his smoking gun to mark a job damn well done.

Zunar - his mission is written all over his body:
"I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink".
In truth, the cartoon above is three years old. Cartoonists do not waste time drawing themselves once their mission is accomplished. The one above was a distillation of his hitherto most important self-portrait, the one to the right of here.

This too is not so much of his person as of his mission. It was a catalog of the number of charges with no basis in the constitution, formulated to lock up those critical of the Malaysian government. Yet, Zunar kept drawing and the cartoon is a cartoon on his compositional technique: Placing the protagonist as the main object on the picture frame, while painting with the only bodily movement left to him. She being drawn is the wife of the then prime minister and co- if not the major player in their corruption scheme.

She may be a composition on his paper, but he is drawing the truth of her being, seeing as we all do Rosmah Mansor yelling at the bottom plane: Charge him!

His weapon of choice proved to be one of sharp precision and in defining his mission, the words are reason and necessity; an informed voice, reasoning every detail in composing his cartoons. He cut to the core of the matter. That is how we define art: and the core of great art we call love.

All the more so for having a greater goal than the person of the former prime minister. Najib has now lost all relevance. He is on track to his final expiration date:

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The cartoons shown are courtesy of Zunar: PLEASE SHARE

Wednesday, 19 December 2018


The present words are thoughts on a book two months published or nearly so. It is the first collection of the cartoons by Khalid Albaih stemming from the days of Occupy till the present and it has been interesting to note the first reactions from holding almost a kilo of them within that one cover.

Spread from Khartoon! on what followed from the US reaction to 9/11.
The feedback has focused on the stark meeting with Khalid's line, all the more present from being seen on a solid page. Stark black on a white page no less. There is every sense of being met on each page with an onslaught of a clear idea transformed into line.

The stark onslaught has postponed seeing the wider frame of their setting, and since that what was our favourite part of the road to the book, I cannot wait any longer to write a few words about it.

It felt like an revelation seeing the cartoons fall into their natural place as in a mosaic finally being laid. A mosaic just waiting to be detected in its entirety. Seeing Khalid's jubilations while he and I did the arrangement were the most memorable moments I shall take from making the book. This was seeing his own work on a new level. The cartoons fell into place with each other, winding their tale on the reasons why situations arose and how the one lead to the next.

The collection forms in its entirety a novel on our time. The major events of the past decade across the globe from the Occupy movement and the war on Iraq to Black Lives Matter and the civil courage of Kaepernick kneeling.

Our idea was to step back from cartoons referring to specific persons or events. The selection is about happenings, developments and the human nature in the general sense. This is about the greater image of how our age came about with the affinities to human action through all of time. Such as greed and corruption and what the two of them cause in unison.

Spread from Khartoon!

We are still living in what we see before us. The consequences are still our everyday lives and we do not know what shall happen from here.

Spread from Khartoon!
The girl reaching for Wi-Fi by standing on the books of before was the cartoon struggling the most finding its proper place in the whole. It is at once so positive on the eagerness of reaching further and yet so sad. Suddenly it glided into place, finding home with nature turned into the spying life of CCTV. Human life is one of enterprise driven by passion and obsession and more often than not formed against fellow humans.

Thus are we, all of this are we. That is the gift from the artist transforming his idea from "anybody's language" in the words of Virginia Woolf, into a "perpetual marriage" with us, the beholders. He creates a curtain that draws us in and forms itself around us. No one is left out.

Spread from Khartoon!

Khartoon! can be ordered at the publisher here and you are welcome to email them. Alternatively Danish PEN will distribute it by way of your local PEN.

Monday, 17 December 2018


This is not a civil war, as Pedro X. Molina has told us since April this year.

This is not a conflict of two sides.

There is but one, and please click for every element of its physiognomy, because Nicaragua needs help to stop it in its track:

Pedro X. Molina, Rabid, November 25, 2018.

We have seen them gradually transform into their true face. Red swirls for the pupils of their eyes at once disclose their blood-pounding rage and beyond that how there is no sense to be found within. Hundreds have lost their lives to them. Many more are wounded. They are cracking down on the critical press. Pedro X. Molina is one of their targets.

As long as the world does nothing, they can show off their torn prizes. To the left the Nicaraguan constitution is no longer. To the right the human rights.

If still nothing is done, human rights are indeed but an empty void.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Pedro X Molina: PLEASE SHARE.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Dilemma into Conflict

Roar Hagen, 2017: "It's typically Norwegian to be good".
Words first articulated by then Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Note the desert setting...

The rock on which Norway is built is a solid one.

Equal measures of heroic history and the grandeur of nature, both of which of a forceful and dangerous character not to be messed with.

With grandeur comes a moral collective obligation to do right and the Norwegians of present day have been doing their utmost. Today this year's Nobel Peace Prize shall be awarded in Oslo. Norway too has housed forums for negotiating peace, just as they strive to be the major donor country in the world. 

Roar Hagen, 2017: "We are suing the parliament for our own riches".
Roar Hagen gifted me his beautiful book Den norske fortellingen (The Norwegian Tale) when we met this autumn, highlighting four decades of taking on the role no less of anthropologist and sociologist, working at the core of that very moral dilemma.

While the classical dichotomy of cartooning lies between the ideal that human never was and the actual fallible human, this is a dichotomy between what once was and the moral drive to do likewise in the present.

At the heart of the dilemma lies another obstacle. It has in fact pushed the mountains into the background as Roar accentuates, although the eternally snow-clad peaks only serve to show off the difference. The new and strange structure, however, is breaking into society making that gap all the bigger: Oil.

A dirty word almost all of itself. To the dilemma already at hand has now been added the collective guilt of being rich.

Roar Hagen, 2017.
Oil is a defining matter, linked to a certain type of behaviour. Indifference or outright opposition to human rights is one of them.

From moral dilemma to moral conflict in other words, being on first name level with Iran and Saudi. Even taking a step back while they set the oil prices, means taking active part. Barren yellow creeps in as the ground on which everything takes places.

Roar Hagen, 2016
OH WHY? the wretched Norwegian shouts out, not even getting an echo for an answer as the mountains of yore would have provided. The oil culprits meanwhile could not care any less, busy as they are shooting down the price per barrel in order to create problems for the other - two of a kind as they are in their brush-off, forgetting the troubles it creates for themselves too. Even the stupidity of it.

"We must in some measure distance ourselves from reality, that is, from ourselves", Roar concludes.

Norway has placed its riches for the long-term common good, saving for the future. Not a bad new rock as it is, although that is no consolation for the struggling. Besides, there is much to do. Not least from what is created by those, who brush of our shared humanity.

Roar Hagen, 2015.

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

Saturday, 1 December 2018

"Everyone has left me"

We are speaking of persons, who have already served their sentences.

The Danish government proposes to place "criminal foreigners" on a secluded seven acres island. "Criminal" as in persons who have served a sentence, but cannot be sent back or those who have taken part in foreign wars such as in Syria.

They would be barred from the rest of society.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish, Detail of Getting Beaten.

It would be against the rulings from our High Court just as it would be against the human rights if it were to become a reality. There is no such thing as "problem gone" by secluding certain persons or groups of persons in a responsible society. To willfully do wrong belongs to despotism.

The secluded would continue to be the responsibility of the government in what would be their reality going forward. Every beating, every incident of sexual abuse, and violence from other "inmates" as well as from the guards present is the action of the government.

We have cartooning evidence from within showing us the horrific face of that reality.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish. 

Please click the present cartoons for their detailing on the living hell Ali Durrani endured as an asylum seeker arriving in Australia in July 2013 until December 2017 when he was rescued to Norway. He arrived at the very moment the Australian Prime Minister announced an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to send on asylum seekers to an "offshore" placement while their status was being assessed. Ali was but 21.

He was sent to Manus Island in 2014 where he endured a living hell of violence and sexual harassment. Drawing became a means of keeping going, buying a pen through his weekly points, while paper had to be stolen one sheet at a time from the office, as he told me when we met in May this year.

So each sheet is used to the full, brimming over with information on what took place.

We learn of the friend who died from violence and subsequent neglect. His grave is a constant presence as an insistence and homage of his life lost, just as we learn of the guards becoming part of the problem egging on the violence taking place. For one, stealing the paper meant punishment.

And no, drawing was no help to him. It did not make him feel better. To humankind, on the other hand, it is important documentation on what happens, when isolation and neglect are made acceptable means. People died from it on Manus Island. Ali very nearly became one of them.

The far-right extremists who have a deciding voice in Danish politics have denounced the term "human" as if that is something that can be undecided by waving it off. Again, please click on the present cartoons and do look up Ali's work penned as Eaten Fish.

This is proof of humanity when it is denounced.

Ali Durrani/Eaten Fish, Nightmare

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Ali Durrani.

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