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    Drawing the Line: History of Political Cartooning in Kenya Essay

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    Though cartooning as a medium of communication and expression is a relatively new phenomenon in Kenya, many a newspaper reader has become so addicted to editorial and thematic cartoon strips that a newspaper without either is not considered a worthy buy. Messages that cannot be conveyed in overdo for sensitivity, political correctness or prejudice are effectively communicated through cartoons. In a nutshell, cartoons have become the sugar coating for the bitter but necessary message.

    We appreciate the now settled role Of cartoons and their creators as the latter day conscience of the nation. Kudos to the Association of East African Cartoonist (CATKIN) for amortizing the history Of cartoons in the Mitten word! Let this initiative be not a seasonal oasis in a desert of information butt modest beginning of what will be a vast ocean of ‘Satanist’ message for present and future generations. 7 Background A Brief History of Political Cartoons Knife-edged and salient, there is no simpler or more effective form of journalism than the editorial or political cartoon.

    The message ? usually critical – is instantaneous, and often funny. Political cartoons (from cartoon, the Italian word for “pasteboard. ) are for the most part composed of two elements caricature, which parodies the individual, and allusion, which creates the situation or context into which the individual is placed. Caricature as a Western discipline goes back to Leonardo dad Vine’s artistic explorations of “the ideal type of deformity”? the grotesque? which he used to better understand the concept of ideal beauty.

    Over time, the principles of form established in part by Leonardo had become so ingrained into the method of portraiture that artists like Agitation and Enabled Accuracy rebelled against them. Intended to be lighthearted satires, their caricatures were, in essence, “counter-art”. K The Italian masters used pasteboard for rough drawings (cartoon), Which were especially useful in preparing frescoes and tapestries.

    The word did not come to mean “an amusing sketch” until the asses when Prince Albert, Who wanted to decorate the walls Of the Drawing the Line new Houses of Parliament in London with frescoes, opened a competition for their design. The cartoons for the frescoes, some of them absurd in their attempts to appear heroic, were exhibited in 1843 and parodied shortly thereafter in the English gazing Punch, thus earning the word its present meaning. The sketch of “A Captain of Pope Urban VIII” is representative tooth new genre in that it is a quick, impressionistic drawing that exaggerates prominent physical characteristics to humorous effect.

    At its best, it brings out the subject’s inner self in a kind of physiological satire and seems to be a comment on some facet of the Captain’s masculinity. Caricatures became popular with collectors, but they perceived the “fanciful exercises” as curiosities rather than viable artistic productions. As a result, they were not displayed publicly and so one of he earliest modes of graphic satire remained in the parlous and drawing room. While caricature originated around the Mediterranean, cartoons of a more editorial nature developed in a chillier climate.

    The Protestant Reformation began in Germany, and made extensive use of visual propaganda; the success of both Martin Lather’s socio-religious reforms and the discipline Of political cartooning depended on a level of civilization neither too primitive nor too advanced. A merchant class had emerged to occupy positions Of leadership Within the growing villages and towns, which meant that a core of people existed who loud respond 9 Drawing the Line to Lather’s invectives and be economically capable of resisting the all-powerful Catholic Church.

    With regard to the physical requirements of graphic art, both woodcutting and metal engraving had become established trades, with many artists and draughtsman sympathetic to the cause. Finally, the factor which probably influenced the rise of cartoons more than any other cultural condition was a high illiteracy rate. Luther recognized that the support of an increasingly more powerful middle class was crucial to the success to his retorts, but in order to lead a truly popular movement he would need the sheer weight of the peasantry numbers.

    The distribution of simple broadsheet posters or illustrated pamphlets throughout population centers proved to be an effective strategy because the images would reach a large amount of people and enjoy the greatest possible amount of comprehension. As Barry Burden, assistant professor of government at Harvard university, puts it, “Satire was once the way for illiterate people to make sense of what was going on in politics? ‘ An excellent example of Luther use of visual protest is found in two woodcuts from the pamphlet Passion Christi undo 10 Drawing the Line Antichrist’s”, originally drawn by Lucas Crane the Elder.

    These images contrast the actions of Jesus with those of the Church hierarchy. The hegemony Of religion at the time ensured that when someone drew a Biblical episode like that of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple, everyone would recognize it. The artist juxtaposed the first scene With a contemporary tableau that many people would also understand: the Pope writes indulgences while common folk pay their hard earned money in tribute. The two pictures clearly intend to raise public consciousness by illustrating the premise that changes must be made within the Church for life to ever become more Christie. Passion Christi undo Antichrist’s” also demonstrates the artists use of the second element of political cartoons– the context of a widely-recognized story or setting? to get his point across. As time went on, Germanic art assimilated the Italian caricature and established the conventions practiced on a wide basis by cartoonists of the 18th Century, The cartoon became a substantial medium of commentary which took serious issues and presented them in a manner which as not only amusing, II Drawing the Line and therefore more socially acceptable, but also designed to affect the viewers opinion.

    As Western culture diversified from its original religious foundation, new subjects became available for discussion and subsequent ridicule; as such the appeal and influence of cartoons on public life grew in proportion. The American political cartoon avgas born in Philadelphia. This is sometimes credited to Benjamin Franklin for his famed Join or Die of 1974, showing a severed snake, its separate parts labeled as colonies. But four copperplate images, a 1764- 5 series, are considered the true beginning of the tradition in their comic-but- cutting depiction Of a political event, and particularly, Of Franklin himself.

    The series inflamed tempers during the 1764 elections and ultimately cost Franklin his seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly, the only election he was ever to lose. In the 18th Century the cartoonists of England, Russia, Germany, Spain, and the Limited States generally declared satirical war on Napoleon, and so effective were they that Napoleon sent notes to the government of England requesting their suppression, equating them with murderers. By the mid-19th century, editorial cartoons had become regular 12 Drawing the Line features in American newspapers, and were soon followed by sports cartoons and humorous cartoons.

    The effect to political cartoons on public opinion was amply demonstrated with the demise of William Tweed, a New York politician in the asses, largely caused by the attention paid to him by cartoonist Thomas NASA. Tweed’s exasperated response speaks to the power of Anna’s cartoons, He demanded to his henchmen,’Stop them damned pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read But, damn it, they can see pictures! ” In the 20th Century, the influence of cartoons was such that Hitler and Stalin surrounded themselves with large groups of “pocket” cartoonists who praised them extravagantly.

    They also destroyed or exiled scratch)NIST critical of them. During the “Battle for Britain” Englishman David Low, considered the centuries greatest cartoonist, was put on Hitless “death list. ” In recent years, 29 countries have jailed or otherwise punished newspaper cartoonists, according to the Cartoonist Relief Network which is dedicated to the protection of the rights editorial cartoonists. The role of cartoonists As we have seen, for half a millennium cartoonists have exposed abuses of power, the corruption of government and the hypocrisy of society.

    Cartoons provide a running commentary on events, people, attitudes and preoccupations, and reflect momentary shifts in public sentiment. According to one theory, as reported by Ray Morris of York University, cartooning depends on the political system. In totalitarian regimes the artist is forced to praise the system and denounce its enemies. In authoritarian regimes some dissent is allowed, and when the games become brittle cartoonists mercilessly expose their rigid foolishness. In a Western (style) democracy during peace-time, cartoonists are watchdogs, keeping power-holders honest and accountable. One might then generalist that cartoonists focus on office-holders and aspirants whom the public can hope to defeat in an election or a popular uprising. Scratch)ins focus overwhelmingly on the leaders of the party in power. Other government and business figures are in the minority. ” According to Dir. Robert Russell, Director of Cartoonists Relief Network and a 30-year veteran Of international community placement, human rights and humanitarian assistance “the editorial cartoonist in most developing countries continues to be an important and highly efficient point of national political and policy debate. He adds, ” As constantly searched for the most efficient and effective point of democratic intervention when assigned to small Third World countries where budgets tort social development were so very small. ћ the man on the street could never tell me the name to any editorial writer in their local press, but even the illiterate population always knew who their favorite editorial cartoonist was,” Cynthia Bailey Lee states in ‘A Semiotic Analysis of Political Cartoons’, a study of the visual images of presidential candidates portrayed in the editorial cartoons in the 2000 LISP presidential election campaign, “political scratch)ins are… Scuttles in helping society to understand and make judgments about the extremely complex interactions at work in political systems. ” Finally, US cartoonist Herb Block, who coined the term “McCarthy” and attacked the infamous anti-communist investigations of that era notes in his essay, “The Cartoon”: “Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression_.. F the prime role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning is often the cutting edge of that criticism. 15 Drawing the Line Section One The historical development Of cartooning in Kenya The history of journalism and cartooning in Kenya are closely intertwined. It is near impossible to tell the story of cartooning without going back, even if only referentially, to that of journalism. While cartooning may be riding on the back of journalism today, it can be argued that in Africa, the history of this art would simply dwarf that of journalism if the former were documented, for caricaturing s much older than journalism.

    The rocks to Africa are host to millions to images caricatured on them, literally across the continent, These go back in time to about 12,000 years, What makes the connection between these and later caricaturing is occasional similarity between the way people are caricatured on the rocks and some of the early cartoons that appear, for instance, in the Sarong Carnival. Journalism in Kenya is a little over a century old, often traced back to the founding of the East African Standard in 1302.

    It is a story that can be told through the prism of a triple-M irritate: missionaries, mercenaries, and merchants, pretty much in that order. The missionaries came, pioneered literacy and publication: the mercenaries followed and furthered the course of journalism through colonial government sponsored publications, and finally the merchants took over, a trend that began with the founding of Jenny’s oldest newspaper and in spite of Africans history of government control of the media, has remained largely true in the case of Kenya.

    Whether early missionary sponsored newspapers carried any caricatures is not clear since there are no records to that effect and the copies of theses publications have since disappeared into the mist of time. But the commercial papers, particularly those identified with the colonial government, soon were carrying syndicated cartoons, for the pleasure of the civil servants, Early Cartoons The earliest reference to cartoons in East Africa chronicles the circulation of caricatures among soldiers fighting in World War l.

    According to Melvin E, page, in an article titled “With Jeanie 17 Drawing the Line in the Jungle: European Humor in an East African Campaign” published in The International Journal of African Historical Studies in 1981, “Cartoons and anecdotes circulated throughout East Africa; at least one humor magazine, the Sarong Carnival, was created for and by the troops. ” The purposes of the Carnival and other sources of humor were to boost the morale of the soldiers and to provide an outlet for their frustrations.

    Cartoons also helped define the enemy, by depicting German soldiers comically, such as in positions impersonating African women or as cowards hiding behind African men. In comparing the war cartoons in Europe and those in East Africa, Page writes: “The enemy in Europe was frequently painted in horrific terms, a Teutonic barbarian rarely smashing the innocent and righteous. In East Africa, though, he was much more amusing. ” These cartoons in East Africa, however. Seldom featured Africans as subjects.

    What one can easily decipher is the typical colonial stereotyping of the Africans then prevalent. Page observes: “Even in situations where the figure of the German was not present, the structure of the humor, rather than the butt of the joke, often revealed this attitude toward 18 Drawing the Line Africans. ” The Carnival, edited by Phillip Mitchell (who was later to serve as, among other positions, the colonial governor to Kenya) and Edmund Richards later governor of Bastioned and Nasally), was published in Livingston Mission in Nasally (now known as Malawi).

    The mission was headed by a missionary, Robert Laws, who, in setting the guidelines under which the paper was to be published, seemed to have preferred Britain’s Punch, as a model. Juju Caulk, the First Indigenous Cartoon Indigenous cartoons in Kenya started with E. G. Agitate about 1950 A former electrician, Agitate came into cartooning literally by accident. He had fallen off the roof of a building while laying wires, in the process breaking his arms. No longer able to handle heavy objects, Agitate covered his artistic talent and started to draw.

    The cartoon strip that he launched then, “Josh Caulk” still runs today. “Juju Caulk” draws from two African languages: “Juju” being Swahili for a clown and “Caulk” being Ninja (spoken in 19 Drawing the Line Malawi) for hare. The strip features a man and his constant companion, a dog. The main character is a wanderer roaming the countryside often on missions that would be befitting a clown. The comic strip, Jenny’s longest running, first appeared in Tacoma. When Tacoma folded, Agitate moved the strip to Barbara, another Swahili newspaper.

    While Agitate drew for these newspapers, he also contributed cartoons to some vernacular ones. Barbara (founded in 1939) folded just shortly before independence. Agitate then, in 1960, moved his strip to Await, launched a year earlier as a weekly, later to become a daily. According to Agitate, the only other cartoonist during this early period was William Catgut. When other newspapers carried cartoons, if they were not from Catgut or Agitate, then they were syndicated. “Juju Caulk” thus enjoyed monopoly until the emergence of Terry Hirsh in the mid-asses.

    Terry Hirsh and Joe Magazine Terry Hirsh Vass the first political cartoonist in Kenya. He closed the decade of the seventies and opened up the eighties with his Friday feature at the Daily Nation which fast gained a following. 20 Drawing the Line He specialized in depicting social scenes and the then quiet political life in rural areas. He teamed up with Hillary Owens in the early asses to launch Joe Magazine, a lively monthly magazine featuring the character “Joe” through whose eyes the reader was exposed to a variety of social issues.

    Unlike “Juju Caulk” Which never cared for social issues or politics, Joe did not shy away from the political. The realism foes was infectious; he almost had a life of his own. Unlike characters in Other cartoons, Who are Obviously fictional, Joe gave the impression that he was a next-door neighbor. If something affected ordinary people, Joe could be depended upon to speak on your behalf, and chances were that his views would pretty much represent what you would have said. Though the magazine ran for only about three years, Joe provided the inspiration for many of the cartoonists who followed.

    Besides serving as a role model, Hirsh unlocked the potential of cartoons to discuss any issue. When the magazine ceased publication, it was as if the country had lost a national celebrity. Nearly a quarter to a century later, Joe is still remembered fondly on Nairobi streets. 21 Drawing Owning later founded the weekly Nairobi Times newspaper (later to be sold to KANE and re-christened Kenya Times), issued every Sunday, and The Weekly Review, a weekly news magazine issued every Friday. Nairobi Times became a launch pad for budding cartoonists.

    After the collapse of Joe, Hirsh was seldom heard of in the cartoon world. Resident goring Cartoonists The cartoonists Who immediately followed Joe were from outside Kenya. Three were particularly influential: Tanzania Philip Underground, Uganda James Turpentine and Ghanaian Prank Dodo. Underground joined Kenya Times in 1983, where he introduced “Kibitzer’, which became a hit With readers as a social comic strip. ‘Kibitzer” literally means “Of no use” and the main character spent time essentially living up to the title.

    The strip connected to the social issues that had been Hirer’s forte. Sadly, Underground died in March 1986 at only 24. James Tummies, an agricultural economist, joined the Daily Nation where, besides drawing political cartoons, he wrote humor. When Hilary Owens founded Nairobi Times 22 Drawing the Line Tummies became an economics correspondent and later business editor; he continued with the paper even after KANE acquired it in 1982 and changed the name to Kenya Times. At the Times Tummies drew cartoons as well.

    One of his most popular characters was “Bogie Bends” who is probably best described as an African “Andy Cap”. Tummies published two comic hooks while still in Kenya. In 1986, he moved back to Uganda where he has been involved in many pursuits including serving in the Uganda cabinet, “Kibitzer” and “Bogie Bends”, while providing continuity and acting as an important bridge, still pale in comparison tit the robust environment that Hirsh set in Joe. Ghanaian born Prank Dodo started drawing political cartoons for the Nation in 1973.

    Dodo, who now produces a series of weekly comic strips, is one of the most socially and politically conscious, and longest active cartoonists on the Kenya scene. His characters tend to be much more mature and his themes more complex, reflective and intended for adult readership, particularly in the comic strips, “The Mermaid of Motorboat” and “Galoot”. His Other columns include “Khan”, “Radii”, 23 Drawing “Living World”, “Checkmate,” and “Apex”. Dodo’s work has been published broadly in the Nordic countries and throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

    Like Hirsh, Dodo, Tummies and Underground have served as role models for later Kenya cartoonists. Local Cartoonists About the same time Dodo was working at the Daily Nation, local cartoonists begun to make their presence felt. One of the first was Kiosks Karri whose work was published in the East African Standard. However, Kiosks was to remain largely a commentator on social subjects. Paul “Maid” Killable was the first indigenous political cartoonist to reach national prominence. Maid owned the Nation in 1986 as the country’s first full time staff editorial cartoonist.

    Prior to that, he had been caricaturing for in-house magazines and publications in Mambas on the Kenya Coast. At the Nation, Maid was primarily an pop-De cartoonist focusing on political and social issues. According to Sunday Nation editor John Agenda, “Maddox 24 Drawing the Line naughty as ever. ” He provides the clearest connection to Hirsh, as his cartoons and themes have a remarkable semblance to those in Joe. During the Vass when the first local editorial Cartoons were printed in the local dailies, the revealing political climate discouraged cartoonists from exploring sensitive subjects.

    For example, While one could caricature ministers and provincial commissioners, cartooning the President was out of the question, at least in the formal media. There were such drawings in the informal publications but these were largely underground papers with limited circulation, such as the clandestine press of the University of Nairobi. With the agitation for political change in the late asses and early asses, cartoonists became bolder and Maid is credited with being the first to caricature the then President Daniel Rap Mom.

    Though the presidential caricature has since become commonplace in Kenya cartoons, back then it was revolutionary. As newspapers recognized the important contribution cartoonists could make, more opportunities opened up. James “Sham” Kumara was hired as the main editorial cartoonist 25 Drawing for Kenya Times, after which, he worked briefly, still as a cartoonist, for the East African Chronicles, before settling in at the Standard. When Maid moved to the Standard, Tanzania Goodbye “Goad” Mamboed replaced him at the Nation and was to become one of Africans most internationally celebrated cartoonists.

    Goad’s works have appeared in a number of publications such as New African in the (J; Courier International and El Monde both in France; the Financial Mail and New Nation both in South Africa; Washington Times, Des Standard of Belgium, and Japan Times. Today, most local dailies have more than one staff cartoonist on their payrolls. Error example, the Nation has a pool of six cartoonists. The editorial cartoon is a permanent feature of editorial pages and the popularity of the composite cartoon commentary pioneered by Mad’s “It’s a Maid Maid World” is testimony to local cartoonists’ talents as social and political commentators.

    The Challenges of Cartooning One of the challenges that Kenya cartoonists face is finding sufficient media through which to expose their work and exploit their talent. With only four newspapers, of which only two, the Nation and the East African Standard are truly mass newspapers, the challenge for any budding cartoonist is formidable. Although the other two dailies, Kenya Times and People, are also mass oriented, their combined circulation is still less than that of the Standard.

    The two main dailies can use only a limited number of cartoonists. At the moment, the Nation Group has about six cartoonists but only a few of them publish regularly. Hardly any of the country’s numerous magazines use cartoons. The efforts by Communication Artists Limited (CAL), a company founded by four of the leading scratch)NIST, have led to the launching of several cartoon-based publications including The African Illustrated, and Penknife, all of which have ceased publication after a limited number of issues. Penknife though has been resurrected as an insert in the Sunday Standard). Kenya cartoonists hue an identity crisis ? whether they are 27 Drawing the Line an independent profession or part of journalism. Though they definitely insider themselves journalists and, according to its Secretary-General Ezekiel Mutual, are recognized as such by the Kenya Union of Journalists, they feel that the specific title of “Cartoonist” is not well regarded.

    The problem that figures topmost in cartoonists’ minds. Is that of editorial censorship. Paul “Maid” Killable is concerned that “editors will… Water down cartoon commentary development and push it back to where it was at the outset thirty years ago. ” Though Kenya cartoonists nowadays enjoy a relatively large degree of freedom and the fact that no cartoonist has been charged or sued in court is testimony o this, they are alert to any developments that may endanger this treated.

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