Thursday, 9 November 2017

Cartoonists Are The Mothers Of The World

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, September 29, 2017.

"I love artists and cartoonists because they are wise with a good nature. I think they are the mothers of the world because their messages could feed people for years. The cartoonists are one of the most important arms of social awareness without any demands". 

The words are by Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, whom is an Iranian cartoonist living in exile in Turkey. Turkey is a place just as dangerous to him and a petition has been made as call to the UN Secretary General. The petition can be signed here.

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, November 4, 2017.

The main part of this post is his own words from a challenge he gave me to challenge him

"I love challenge and concepts. Art is derived from life and its flames have stretched the heavens. We should breathe the feeling into concepts, pencils, love until Zenith to be met as well as God breathe life into human beings. The creation should be up-to-date in order to prevent any forgetfulness. Concept is our common language and the art should be dived into minds if artists do their job well".

From here on I shall let his beautiful words speak for themselves. They are a rare in their clarity on the creation and understanding of life through art. For that reason this post is featuring his cartoons from the past two months on the nib of the cartoonist's pen as the center of existence and the danger that entails to the cartoonist. For one thing, speaking of God:

"The human is the greatest creator. I don’t know why he looks for the creator in the skies". 

"These statements are considered as blasphemy in my country and several times I have used them in my cartoons and work, thus I was threatened and exiled. But how is it possible to make a contrast of birth and death? The distance between these two is avoidance, in my opinion. Avoidance of life, eternity and creation. Avoidance of everything". 

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, October 5, 2017.

"Art is a nature of human beings. Life is full of artistic taste. We re-create ourselves every day. We make love and believe in religion. We understand the color and we create it every moment in our eyes as in a loving way as more romantic. We see the lines and transplant it with our feeling. We can find the unforeseen shapes. We can feel the pain because we have experienced the moments of death. We know death because we create reality". 

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, October 22, 2017.

"We use a blade to shave, but it can also be used as a means of the greatest stupidities. This is the art of creation. The art of existence in secret. We should blossom through death again and again to realize that art is not separable from the truth. You should know the path, know the style, and should quaff the climax. At that moment you can claim that you are inspired by and from within knowledge, inspired by the sunrise and sunset, by flying and freedom…" 

"Sometimes you need to become a lunatic, but in this world’s term, and then at the peak of the fool's madness, create the finest, purest and the most precious of all and watch it flourish in the world and in the truth and conclude the inspiration. At that moment, you should experience and taste the sweetness and artistic taste of inspiration". 

"Cooperation and group work is basically awesome, but there are times that you reach a point that either the world does not dare to hear the truth or man does not dare to tell the truth. Here is where you become lonely. Suddenly everybody leaves and you become abandoned. I like to work with everyone. I love group work as a way to growth and flourishing". 

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, October 5, 2017.

"We are against war because we forget ignorance and we believe in peace because it’s the most inspirational of human dignity. We know the light and we fight darkness. We found ourselves here better. I am inspired from the ultra-reality and I draw whatever I get. This is the bitter truth of the forced exiled. We can pinpoint shapes with the bitter truth and create an image with sarcasm". 

"Cartoons are used in many different ways in the world and each has a definite definition, But I believe that cartooning is the expression of truth in the language of sarcasm". 

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, Immortality,
October 30, 2017.

"I have not studied arts and drawing and have not taken any course in this field. I used to scribble when I was child, and my mother took my hand to draw. I came to choose it as my job".

"My mother created me and I created the spirit of art in my mind. Man is a creator, and I feed myself and the world with my creations. I want to immortalize pure ideas as well as I can create and promote them by cartoons". 

"My artistic inspiration derives from the passage of moments. The globe is shouting death, and I immortalize my outcry through my writings and paintings. I believe that pure ideas are precious and our lives should be spent for their sake". 

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, Human history will be written on the brave,
October 18, 2017.

"You should close your eyes and flow in the absolute darkness and die. You should observe the talents inside you at the height of disability, wait for the hunt, and in silence and expectation wait for the glow, and then you should follow the path to the blazing star".

"However, I won’t ever be able to reach it, because upon reaching it, either it perishes or I shall perish. What a profound world, everything dies in it except for the moment of beginning. This was how I began drawing".

Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini, November 2, 2017.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Meysam Agha Seyed Hosseini and must not be reproduced without his permission.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Scent of Oranges

Cartoonists tend to diminish their work, "Oh, it is a negative art form, I am always looking for the wrong side of things", as if it is a truism of cartooning. The negativity statement is certainly an old one and difficult to get rid off seeing that on the surface, bad things does get exposed on the picture plane.


Cartooning exercises critical analysis in which negativity has no real home, or to be specific: Pre-determined pros and cons belong to the category of propaganda.

Let us instead tell a tale. A tale of immortal love, even when all hope seems lost.

Sara Qaed, The Scent of Oranges... Morning, October 27, 2017.

Please click on the photo to see the detailing, just as it is meant to be seen from right to left. The latter is of no big consequence, though, since the two belong together in unison.

Sara Qaed has drawn a longing so intense that its impossibility makes it possible from beyond the prison bars. His beloved believing him dead is living in poverty and hunger, their children clinging to her. Just then, while looking at the ribbon of mourning on his portrait, his calling reaches her.

This should be written in the language of poetry, and yet there is no need. It is already here before us.

The mental bond crossing boundaries taking on physical existence, while the scent of oranges speaks of his pain. A soul of this strength can only be of the right sort. With this we are back at critical cartooning at its core, portraying the abuse of power incarcerating what power fears the most. He may not need a ribbon of mourning, but he is still behind vertical bars.

Yet, he is not... with which the circle remains unbroken, proving that within the grand tales on life, cartooning is to be found.

The cartoon shown is courtesy of Sara Qaed and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

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 stand 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.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Genuine Question

How could an idea possibly gain ground in a population by way of violence directed at them?

Hate generates hate and violence generates violence, as Khalid Albaih concluded upon the terrorist bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Khalid Wad Albaih, Confused: what would make you think
that violence against civilians will spread an idea? 
October 17, 2017.

A khartoon of doubles; layers upon layers of them intricately woven into one another.

The obvious first layer of light vs. darkness creates a intricacy of its own kind by shifting who gets to do what. The light for instance is not taking on the narration, while leaving it to the black ink to act as its backdrop. They each add in, making for an intelligent play with our brains of the kind that is a Gestalt psychologist's life dream.

The very kind of brain activity, which the terrorist is lacking. He is utter darkness, speech bubble included.

Still, his eyebrows are twisting each their way in his conviction of being right.

Added to this is the "before" and "after" of which we are still seeing the "before", looking on as we are from the "after", where we know the answer to Khalid's question only too well.

He has made certain that we see the idea first of all, incorporating a visual delay by adding a hand to the grenade below, thereby blurring its outline.

Khalid is intentionally playing with us and yet he is not confining us. His composition is an honest, open and genuine question: How on earth would creation spread from destruction?

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

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The Loneliest Prisoner

A hunger strike is a cry for help from one without a voice. A human risking life in desperation of a way back to life.

Mana Neyestani, Mohammad Nazari, The Loneliest, October 22, 2017.

Mana Neyestani has portrayed Mohammad Nazari filing off his own body as the only thing left to him. Mohammad Nazari has been on hunger strike for 80 days following 24 years of imprisonment.

He was 23, when he was sentenced.

His crime consisted in being a member of the Iranian Kurdish party. A death sentence was later changed to a life of imprisonment. Since 2013 a said membership is no longer a crime.

Still, he is locked in and in his lonely fight to see freedom, Mana Neyestani has transformed him into his own monument. Honoring his bravery, Mohammad Nazari is drawn holding one hand high in spite of being hollowed from within from the metal of imprisonment.

He is drawn without a face given his destiny. Yet, his courage is of a strength beyond the humanly possible and Mana Neyestani has placed him so high to emphasize that we have to look up him even when seeing him on paper.

Let the final words be Mohammad Nazari's own. Words from an open letter of October 18:

"Don’t abandon me. I don’t have anyone. My father, mother and brother were laid to rest years ago in the cemetery in Boukan. Your helping hand is my only hope. Help me. Help me so that my voice can be heard. Help me gain the freedom I am legally entitled to."

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

"I do not offer answers"

- "but I would like to ask the right questions", Sara Qaed, a young cartoonist of Bahrain stated in an interview for Canvas at this year's Arab Cartoon Festival in Belgium.

Sara Qaed, What you usually do with all that is said, April 19, 2016.

Sara Qaed poses her questions in her cartoons with a strong line, which has no time for small talk nor indeed lies. She takes her subjects to their very bone structure to uncover their truth value.

Words are more often than not noise in our societies and just as often they are used as a cover to betray away our attention. The higher the noise, the more can be hidden within and the one tugging and striving against the multitude of speech bubbles need as much of the picture plane as possible to find the strength needed.

Sara Qaed, Series, March 8, 2017.
His lone figure is the visual counterpart to the line of silencers. Each time a voice is silenced a pattern emerges and multiplies. The final one to the left is the only one recognizable for a human form.

The rest are rounded lines, connected beyond infinity, impossible to say where they come from and why. Which is ultimately not even of relevance. The pattern has taken on a life on its own, keeping each section of the chain in check.

Sara Qaed, Human Meal Rotation, March 13, 2017,
Such a pattern is indeed mute, as Siegfried Kracauer specified with such precision in 1927 on the mass ornament. Ornaments made up of a number of bodies, performing in the same act to visualize an idea.

To this end they have turned themselves into a passive material, a tool - I am still paraphrasing Kracauer - incapable of extending into other directions beyond the one designated to them.

Sara Qaed, Re-cycling, March 6, 2017.

Sara Qaed, From his system, March 6, 2017.

Visibility is a core instrument to the power play that is ornamentation. Fresh material must constantly be lured in to keep it evolving while each new component makes it even harder to detect the elements therein. The latter are busy in their passive pursuit to do their duty; eating while being eaten, at the same time as the despot is affirming the symbol of eternal repetition.

Art as an act of violence. A lineup onto graph paper to rid the individual beings of what perfection deems superfluous:

Sara Qaed, Equal 2 cm., September 24, 2017.

Sara Qaed, Black Squares, August 1, 2017.
With the beheaded we are back to the noise of speech, this time the spoken word of which no second meaning are permitted yet constructed as a means to disguise that very fact.

By making her own field the battleground of despots using the seductiveness of the interlacing line, Sara Qaed is proving her strength. She is denuding her artistic voice of any embellishment, which might act as an excuse for creating distraction.

Sara Qaed, Bottleneck, August 22, 2017
Imperfection is one such way of intelligent life, fighting to find a way to freedom, and disclosed to us through transparency. Just as we were not meant to see the women being traded, trapped as they are from poverty and being under age.

Sara Qaed, The Store Selling Women - Syria/Lebanon, April 7, 2016.

The insistence of power to disguise itself continues all the way into the halls of obvious power.

This is a map otherwise unseen of the states in the Gulf, the potentates each carving and eating off each other:

Sara Qaed, The Gulf Cutting Their Relationships, June 6, 2017.

Sara Qaed, Book Reading, April 8, 2015.
To the clarity of the line, Sara Qaed adds another layer: Her tiny strokes and dots in succession close to each other.

They are serving as a visual language in itself on the physical movement or mental reaction of fear, anger or despair of the human in question.

In unison with the larger frame, she creates a facetted analysis in which she each time takes us beneath the surface.

We even get to see the beaming of those actively informing themselves to walk on in life. Or we get to meet the one, who is repeated called a LOSER. He too suddenly reaches out to grab a hold of a poisonous speech bubble to transform it into a means to building wings and a new life ahead.

His own speech bubble is a song. 

Sara Qaed, Loser Can Fly, October 14, 2016.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Sara Qaed and must not be reproduced without her permission.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Sapuman: Man of Steal

Zunar is banned from leaving his country and one by one his books are banned too. One after another his profession and his economical means are undermined.

Yesterday the turn came to SAPUMAN; Man of Steal - with the prime minister for front cover, corruption in hand while Zunar in chains is painting with his mouth on the back cover. To quote from his statement at CRNI in his own words:

"I would like to reiterate that this ban will not stop me from drawing cartoons to expose corruption and injustice. You can ban my books, you can ban my cartoons, but you cannot ban my mind. When the government is faulty, drawing cartoon is a duty."

"Laugh at them" he wrote in my copy - and yes, SAPUMAN is well beyond the borders of Malaysia...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Never Another One

Cintia Bolio, "Virginia Woolf" for Revista con la A,
September 26, 2017.

Quotations tend to be presented with a smug smile. This one is noteworthy for being nothing of the sort. There is a deep pain in stating the truth of having to express oneself solely by way of concealing what one stands for. Placing one's art out there, without the right to be there oneself.

Cintia Bolio has given us a new Virginia Woolf. The latter is usually always drawn in profile, all angular lines with the portraitist going all the way, doing what the art photographers in her day could but hint at. Cintia Bolio, on the other hand, lets Virginia Woolf look directly at us, with three sharp and shadowed layers for eyes. We are facing a fact and Cintia Bolio is making certain there is no mental escape.

Author and cartoonist are further connected by the ink as their basic means for expressing themselves. Cintia Bolio draws with a strength and flourish to her line, playing with us that what may seem a traditional feminine touch, has the power to cut open our way of seeing things. Mouths are dangling before their faces, as we shall see below, because the world is so outrageous every boundary should be broken. Just not on Virginia; the two of them are in accordance.

Above, the ink well is spelling the name of the one, with the other letting that name flourish into two of her main subjects: the heart and the uterus.
Cintia Bolio, 2017.
"How to own your body
without being criminalized in the attempt".

AT LONG LAST the uterus gets her own say.

And we have a new body part in the arts.

A visual presence of a body part, which has been there all along, unseen and yet suppressed as that place of from where all danger stems.

The proof has been in equal measurement mythical and sociological, just as science has declared its fair share of nonsense through the ages.

But this uterus drawn by Cintia Bolio no longer puts up with men defining her and she has much to do.

Cintia Bolio, on abortion for World Policy Journal, January 2017.

Case in point in the immediate above and below. The uterus has speech bubbles in her own right and the force to fly her own way. "Justice belongs to those who exercise it" as Cintia Bolio adds to the cartoon below. A sentence which is at the center of the struggle. The miter does his utmost.

Cintia Bolio, Decriminalization and Effects, 2008.

Cintia Bolio:
"Political prisoners for abortion, Freedom!"

The uterus clenches her one ovary ready to take on the fight.

Hers is a dangerous task. She is fighting for freedom, pointing to specific problems women are facing in Mexico such as minimal wages, being left out of paid leave and health insurance, while trying to raise their children on the next to nothing they earn.

The discrimination reaches into the body of the Mexican woman, and thus we return to the uterus herself. This is where it gets dangerous for her, questioning her status.

Such as questioning the status of life and the right to abortion. Cintia Bolio uses the very definition given to the uterus on the male situation. Considering not a single living entity is allowed to go to waste as the reason for making abortion illegal, what about the male daily outlet of.... how many? Such a waste and what is more: THAT is illegal.  

Cintia Bolio, detail from the satirical magazine El Chamuco, September 2016.
"In contrast, men do not, although they abort more every time
they ejaculate without reproductive purposes"

With this Cintia Bolio declares The Male Abortion.

Cintia Bolio, detail from the satirical
magazine El Chamuco, September 2016.
The male counterpart loses his breakfast at hearing this... although he is not late in arguing back, taking on the status of Rightful Judge. "My law" as he phrases it, when confronted with The Grim Reaper, who sees a new line of work.

The Grim Reaper argues that norms do not change the fact that spermatozoa contain life to which his opponent responds "I refuse to see it that way, We are not stupid."

Thus argues the one gender on behalf of the other.

Cintia Bolio, The Ideal Female Citizen, 2015.
"- Done. You have no need for such leftist rights...
to fulfill your obligations"

Tied from within with no chance express herself at the ballot box and with this we add another layer to the violence of the situation. It is one thing throwing light on abortion by way of uncovering the double standards. Another is the number of women murdered. Considering their number it is a slaughter and all too many are never even found, quoting Margaret Atwood how

"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid that men will kill them".

Cintia Bolio, Memento, 2005.

Cintia Bolio, detail from Memento, 2005.

It is heart wrenching seeing the drawing on its own to the left. The skeletal hand, touching the Missing Person poster with her own portrait, probably never to be found. The story of a life in which each page is composed on the pink cross of the murdered woman.

The symbolism carried by the likes of the uterus and the pink cross are at once new and well-known, creating a presence of the ones, who have been here all along, yet unseen and later unfound.

"I did not love my life, because it was a good one, but because it was mine", our unfound protagonist lays before us. The right to live is as always a question posed only to the weakest in our societies. The sick, the elderly and the women: Is your life of value?

Cintia Bolio, Memento, 2005.

Cintia Bolio, 2017.
"Fighting the violence and gender discrimination.
-This is where you came from. Respect".

Respect. Presence. Voice.

At which we are right back at the heart in the scroll in Virginia Woolf's name. The hearts of Cintia Bolio are the ones pumping pain or sound or both, with the insistence of empathy and understanding as its center.

The heart below addresses the murdering of journalists, to which Cintia Bolio and Virginia Woolf belong each in her way. Anyone touching upon the necessity of change set themselves in danger.

Yet Cintia Bolio speaks. For the very necessity for it: Ni una más. Never another one.

Cintia Bolio: Without Journalism No Democracy, August 2017.

The cartoons shown are courtesy of Cintia Bolio and must not be reproduced without her permission.

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

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