How can editorial cartoons better connect the dots between the social determinants of injustice and not just the individuals who profit from it?
This year, 2017, must be the best of times and the worst of times to be a cartoonist because we live in very strange and unprecedented times in South Africa and the world. To call these days of our lives “interesting” would be an understatement.
Ours is a time of inversions and injustice.
Ours is a time where figures we would usually consider pantomime caricatures have become the norm. It is a time of larger than life idiots like Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un or Jacob Zuma. The tragedy is that these gun-toting cowboys have our lives in their hands.
Ours is a time where the extreme has become ordinary and ordinary is more and more extreme.
Ours is a time when government ministers of a once-upon-time liberation party dress in Gucci suits, a new one for every day, while the children whose school-money they hoard, drown or hang in school toilets.
At the very moment when many would say we celebrate our greatest freedom under
Ours is a time of tom-foolery, where criminal elites with one hand in business and the other over government are happy for we the people to live under the illusion that we live under the rule of law; they are content that we wallow in soft ideas like “equality”,”dignity” and human rights while they plunder and rape.
In such an irreverent world what room does this leave for
Are cartoonists becoming extinct like the newspapers they used to draw for? Perhaps that‘s the question you should be asking yourselves.
Where do you fit in?
Before being invited to speak at this conference I had never really thought about the role of editorial cartoonists in social justice. Seeing a cartoon is as familiar as having cornflakes for breakfast. But as I began to trawl my memory and then the internet I was surprised to discover how luminous
Cartoonists become dangerous to politicians when their characterisations become larger than life.
The work of Zapiro is an obvious example. Zapiro’s attaching a shower head to Jacob Zuma has become iconic.
But Zapiro is far from unique. Suddenly I remembered various British cartoonists I had encountered in my youth.
Like Steve Bell whose depiction of British Prime Minister John Major with elongated lips and always with a pair of over-sized underpants outside his trousers, making him into a permanent buffoon!
Or Alan Hardman, whose drawings of a hawk-like Margaret Thatcher, were always a feature of the weekly socialist newspaper the Militant.
From Zapiro and
But my question to cartoonists is the same one I recently put to journalists at the Daily Maverick Gathering; as inhabitants in a cartoon-century, a time of extremes, how do we make people outraged or awake? How can editorial cartoons better connect the dots between the social determinants of injustice and not just the individuals that profit from it?
For example, how would you connect the death of little Michael Komape to state
In a similar fashion, Zapiro’s dark cartoons on Aids denialism and Thabo Mbeki form a pictorial history, a backdrop to Aids denialism.
More recently, one thinks of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and
Social justice requires satire. We need political cartoonists.
Cartoonists, like journalists, should not be propagandists for anyone – but the line between passivity and passion is a fine one.
It’s your job to find that line! I think that all great art, be it literature, painting or
This is an edited version of a speech Mark Heywood delivered to the opening of the Cartoonists Convention, Cape Town, 9
To discover more of Mark Heywood’s views on social justice and the world, read Get Up! Stand Up! Personal Journeys Towards Social Justice (Tafelberg, 2017)
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