Arab caricature manifests social and political issues, 11 May 1998

As troubles grew in the Arab homeland, satire and caricature took on different forms in the past few years, and new generations of caricaturists entered the arena. But this abundance does not mean that the space of freedom has expanded before the Arab caricaturist.

In the meantime, these artists enjoy enough power to lead a game of cat and mouse before censorship.

Silence is one of the most prominent characteristics of contemporary Arab caricaturists. Many of their panels, without text, provoke the reader, spur his imagination and paint a bitter and painful smile on his lips.

Most of these panels depend on ideas rather than words.

Libyan artist Muhammad al-Zawawi deals with his people's daily issues and concerns. His major topic is political and social hypocrisy.

Qassi Rashid from Algeria is famed for his silent caricatures, with versatile and panoramic talent.

Most Arab cartoonists preceded their time when they fully invested the computer and modern technique to shape out their ideas.

Egyptian artist Mustafa Hussein published his pictures in the Egyptian daily Akhbar al-Youm. For him the art of caricature aims at casting light on one or more questions and unveiling these questions mockingly and satirically.

Pierre Sadeq, one of the most prominent cartoon artists in Lebanon, says that making people laugh is not my task. Sadeq's caricature is intended to address social and political defects, and entertainment comes in second place.

In the Arab Maghreb states the art of caricature is linked to newspapers and magazines. Social criticism is the essence of the art of caricature in the Arab Maghreb.

Nabil Abu Hamed, a story writer, plastic artist and caricaturist, said, Successful caricature is that which points successfully to the social and political defects without much ado.

Al-Arabi al-Sabban believes that the inter-relationship between satire and knowledge gives the art its genuine value.

Abdul Salam al-Halil of al-Riyadh daily in Saudi Arabia says the ideas for his cartoons come from the daily events he picks up. Hamid Najib started his career as a caricaturist at the United Arab Emirates' al-Itihad daily and in Zahrahul Khaleej (Gulf Flower) magazine. He published three books of his caricatures depicting social and political issues in the Arab homeland.

Jordan caricaturist Jalal al-Refai says the job of the Arab caricaturist is very difficult. He added that government censorship is not the only obstacle in the Arab states, noting many additional issues—especially certain social traditions and concepts still advocated by Arab people particularly in regard to women's issues—that are still in many ways viewed as a taboo. Sometimes Arab societies themselves stand against caricature which highlights certain misconceptions.