July 26, 2021

In Paris, “Cartooning in Africa” honors cartoonists from the continent

Impertinent, committed, driven by dreams of change: the press cartoon is asserting itself in Africa, as demonstrated by two Parisian events, united under the banner “Cartooning in Africa”, which honor the « cartoonists Of the continent as part of the Africa2020 cultural season – an initiative by President Emmanuel Macron to publicize the actions of African civil society and its diasporas.

The first meeting at the Forum des images, Friday July 2, devotes three round tables to press cartoons in Africa: exchanges and debates around citizenship, information and freedom of expression. The second event, under the canopy of the Forum des Halles, offers an exhibition from July 3 to 11 revealing the richness and diversity of the continent’s designers.

“A universal language”

The recognition of the African press cartoon was notably expressed in May 2019 in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia and seat of the African Union (AU), under the aegis of the latter, Unesco and the Ethiopian government, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

“With our small means, we have succeeded in bringing together around thirty cartoonists from the continent and thus better understand their difficulties”, remembers Plantu, daily designer The world for half a century and founder in 2006 of the Cartooning for Peace association, with the help of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

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The meeting in Ethiopia made it possible to write the Addis Ababa Declaration for the recognition of press cartoons as a fundamental right. “Drawing, illustration, painting, graffiti form a specific and universal language, that of the image, present across all cultures from the dawn of humanity and witness to human history. (…) », specifies the text dated May 3, 2019.

Today, Cartooning for Peace – organizer of the two Parisian events – brings together 225 cartoonists from 69 countries, including 29 on the continent: South Africa, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia , Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia… Countries where economic, political and social situations generate very different ways of working.

“I started drawing in the early 1980s for anti-apartheid organizations. A number of my drawings have been banned by the government and I have been arrested several times. Even though, as a white man, the difficulties I faced were much less than those encountered by black militants ”, remembers the South African cartoonist Zapiro.

With the end of apartheid and the accession of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of the Republic in May 1994, Zapiro was committed to the Mail & Guardian, one of the most important weeklies in the country, where he remained there for twenty-three years, denouncing corruption with rage. Without forgetting collaborations with newspapers like The Sowetan, a major daily newspaper published in Soweto, a township located southwest of Johannesburg.

Resist a repressive power

In Algeria, it is a question of resisting an increasingly repressive power. The artist-painter and cartoonist Nime suffers the consequences, with his drawings – real paintings published on his blog – which do not hesitate to attack the Presidency of the Republic, the Prime Minister or the Head of State -Major of the armies. He will be quickly sentenced to one year in prison, including three months, in December 2019.

“In an Algeria that is sold to us as ‘new’, this testifies to the panic of this aging regime. To resist is to show cunning and intelligence, to use finesse and subtlety to convey messages and play on different levels of reading ”, underlines Nime, who will be present at the events of “Cartooning in Africa”.

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In the east of the continent, a 30-year-old Ethiopian stands out in the country’s satirical drawing universe. An architect by training, Yemi does not hesitate to scratch the powerful, to campaign for the release of prisoners or for the return of exiled opponents, without forgetting to sketch the political news.

“In recent years, with the opening up of the media to different points of view, I have been thinking about topics that I consider important enough for the average citizen, who is a spectator like me. I also work with NGOs on themes such as human rights, humanitarian efforts, peace and security, agriculture… ”, specifies the young woman, who will also be at the Forum des halles.

Barometer of social and political life

The Ivorian Lassane Zohoré, meanwhile, wants to hit hard with his weekly Gbich!, a real barometer of the social and political life of the country, of which he is one of the founders. When it was created in January 1999, the satirical newspaper was a little-known format in Côte d’Ivoire. From the beginning of the adventure, Gbich! highlights the comic strip, with headings with evocative names: “Express inquiry”, “Zyeux voir pas, bouche speaks” or “Et dit Early”.

“In times of social lull, we don’t hesitate to strike by shooting at anything that moves. But when a serious crisis arises and the peace is fragile, we try to play down. If all goes wrong, everyone has a toast! Including the designer. We therefore prefer to play doves in these moments of embers ”, notes the director of Gbich !, also present at “Cartooning in Africa”.

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In Sudan, Alaa Satir confronts his work with the violence suffered under the terror regime of Omar Al-Bashir, overthrown in April 2019 after four months of popular protests and nearly thirty years in power. “With my drawings, I tried to document the revolution, with its ups and downs. A period that challenged and changed my work. Especially about women’s issues, which are often ignored and put aside. Because our claims are generally belittled ”, indicates the designer, who wants to fight for democracy and women’s rights and who will be in Paris.

Denounce Chinafrica

In East Africa, Gado occupies a special place in the world of press cartoons. Tanzanian living in Kenya, he did not hesitate to fiercely caricature President Uhuru Kenyatta when he was suspected of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague following the post-election violence of the 2007 presidential election.

The designer also denounces the failings of the Chinese presence in Africa. “Corruption linked to contracts between the mainland and China remains a major problem today. And it is African leaders who are primarily responsible. This corruption leads to human and environmental rights being violated and those who suffer the most are women and children ”, accuses Gado, also present at the Forum des halles.

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Finally, the publication of the work Africa, by Plantu and Cartooning for Peace, accompanied by a text by the writer and essayist René Guitton, offers a rich and varied panorama of the continent’s pencils, markers and brushes in drawings. “True critical works of art or irreverent caricatures, they [ces dessins] say social aspirations and dreams, carried in the same momentum. Everything passes: regression, repression, free expression, moods, suffering, refusal of the unacceptable, fanatic delirium, condition of women, jumps and jolts, hope, progress… ”, concludes René Guitton.

Colloquium “Press cartoons in Africa”, Friday July 2: three round tables (2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.). Forum des images, 75001 Paris. Registration required on the site: https://www.forumdesimages.fr/les-programmes/cartooning-in-africa. Or send an email to rsvp@cartooningforpeace.org

Exposition « Cartooning in Africa », from July 3 to 11, under the canopy of the Forum des halles, terrace -1, 75001 Paris. Free entry, every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Africa, Plantu and Cartooning for Peace, text by René Guitton (Calmann-Lévy ed., 154 pages, 18 euros).