OP-ED

The Art Of Caricature Flourishes In Crisis

By Tamjid Alkohali

Over the past four years, Yemen has passed through very difficult situations as a result of internal political conflicts among parties, which has led to the deterioration of the country in all fields: politically, socially, economically, and culturally.

However, cartoonists have found the crisis a good time to show their creativity, many Yemenis are very interested in this kind of art and appreciate humor in discussions of issues of their community.

 Young and old cartoonists enjoyed popularity during the 2011 uprising. Ayman Alwusabi, a 19-year-old cartoonist working at Osama magazine for children, became popular artist in Change Square.

Alwusabi said, the 2011 revolution was very important in his life. “I went to Change Square to participate in Youth Revolution and i was surprised by the creative youth over there, such as poets, artist, writers, actors. I decided to share some of my paintings there.”

According to Alwusabi, meeting creative people at Change Square was a great chance to share experiences and learn.

He confirmed that political jokes and the art of caricature were popular at that time, and cartoons were spreading fast among people as an enjoyable way to vent and express realities. “I found myself in the art of caricature and enjoyed practicing it with the help of older cartoonists.”

Alwusabi became very famous and his work increased with the worsening situation. “I will continue documenting the events that are happening in the country every day through cartoons. It’s a message that penetrates the hearts and minds and touches people’s feelings in a simple way,” said Alwusabi.

Mazin Shuga’a Aldeen, a cartoonist for many newspapers and magazines since 1998, spoke more to National Yemen about the development of caricature art in Yemen.

According to him, after 2011 the art of caricature began developing more than before. “This period was the reason behind the fame of many cartoonists, either those who were with the Youth Revolution or against it,” he said.

Shuga’a Aldeen confirmed that the art of caricature is always popular in the Yemeni community. “Caricature art is a smart way to capture the attention of people and concerned authorities to the many issues and problems, especially in a community where most people don’t like reading.”

Shuga’s Aldean prefers social caricature to the political kind. Social caricature invokes a positive change in society, while political caricature leads to divide people. “Unfortunately, political caricature is the most popular at this time, but I avoid it to not lose my friends.”

On other hand, Shuga’s Aldean said that the art of caricature is still local, and Yemeni cartoonists haven’t reached the world.

“The main reason is that cartoonists are very busy with local issues, and few draw caricatures about global issues like Palestine. However, the internet has extended the popularity of cartoonists inside and outside the country as well as helping cartoonists meet other cartoonists from different countries.”

Despite an increase in the number of cartoonists, most don’t enjoy freedom of expression and face attacks.

Artist Rashad al-Samey, who works at Algomhuria Foundation for Journalism, Printing and Publishing, spoke about the freedom of cartoonists, especially with the lawlessness suffered by the country since 2011.

Al-Samey said that there are still a lot of restrictions facing cartoonists, confirming that anxiety increased with the absence of laws.

“Verbal attacks are most common now, either directly or indirectly, especially when cartoonists post their cartoons on social networking pages like Facebook,” he added.

According to Al-Samey, the internet helped a lot of cartoonists be more free despite losing their material and moral rights. “Many cartoonist’s works are exposed to robbery, change and distortion when they are posted on networking pages, but its better than newspapers that still don’t appreciate this kind of art.”

Al-Samey said that like other fields, the art of caricature don’t receive any support from the government and cartoonists can’t depend on their art for a living. Yet what keeps it a prosperous endeavour is its audience who are increasing day after day.