Cartoons are narratives of social observations

Updated 14 June 2014
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Cartoons are narratives of social observations

For many people, a cartoon is perceived as a drawing or painting intended to present social issues or political events in a satirical or humorous style, but Ali Al-Ghamdi, a Saudi cartoonist with Al-Madina newspaper, said the ideas for a cartoonist are derived from the community, local events and political developments, and even from readers, citizens and networking sites.
Being in the business for more than 20 years, Al-Ghamdi highlighted a considerable difference between a cartoonist and a photographer.
“A cartoonist is more of a painter. Many Saudi painters, who have become cartoonists, organize their own exhibitions and contribute regular features to newspapers and elicit the readers’ reaction,” he said, adding that usually a cartoonist observes any event with a critical eye.
“In every situation, the cartoonist’s critical eye detects something to draw the attention of the readers, sometimes in a provocative manner,” he explained, urging newspapers to provide some space for amateur Saudi cartoonists.
There are nearly 20 professional Saudi cartoonists in the Kingdom according to Al-Ghamdi, in addition to dozens of citizens who are still fresh in this profession and their work can be seen online.
A cartoonist depends essentially on the simulation of reality with no need for a very high drawing skill, said Al-Ghamdi, explaining that a cartoonist can be a good artist with half of a painter’s talent provided he has creative ideas to convey through his art.
Al-Ghamdi said there are several schools where one can learn different types of art in Europe and the United States, such as silent art, with comments or signature.
“The cartoon style differs from one artist to another. While some employ the symbol of a feather or key, others make use of cartoon personalities such as Hanzala and Sultan, or symbols such as a crow or some other image,” he said.
He underscored that the Saudi Association for Cartoonists is yet to give the required attention to cartoonists just as the professional associations of writers and journalists have failed so far to give any support to their members.
“Unfortunately, trade unions and professional associations in the Kingdom have not been up to their responsibilities where they should act as a driving force for their members as is the case with their counterparts in other countries,” he explained.
Echoing Al-Ghamdi, Ashraf Abdullah, a leading cartoonist and European Arab journalist, explained more about the profession, saying that the tools of a cartoonist differ from common painters in the sense that a cartoonist must be endowed with drawing skills accompanied by employing meaningful shades and fully familiar with social issues in his surroundings and beyond.
“A successful cartoonist should not miss any development in society. He should have a sharp eye observing each and every political, economic or social development in any part of the world, particularly in his own country,” Abdullah, who is also member of Egyptian cartoonists association, said.
He stressed the importance of learning from other artists and acquiring theoretical knowledge besides participating in international contests, which will give artists more exposure to the outer world, adding that the Arab cartoonists are challenged by the lack of professional cartoon institutes or schools in the Arab world.
Abdullah stressed the role of female cartoonists who need plenty of support and encouragement from society. However, he said, female artists are reluctant to work in public due to social traditions and the fear of criticism.
“Some of them published their work without revealing their real identity” he said.
So far, most of the Kingdom’s cartoons, which could be described as conventional, have focused on negative aspects of society without making any personal attacks on any one. Yet Saudi cartoonists, who avoid local or international political issues, never submit entries in the political section of exhibitions abroad, he said.
Calling for effective activation of the Arab Federation of Cartoonists and celebrating an international level Arab Cartoon Day, Abdullah also demanded that more cartoon exhibitions should be organized.
Cartoonist Manal Muhammed of Al-Jazirah newspaper said she underwent a wonderful transition from a painter to cartoonist.
Manal, who observed that women rarely show interest in joining this type of profession, said her ideas revolved around social issues, particularly of women.
“I did not receive any help from others to develop my skill as a cartoonist and my concern was about the plight of Saudi women,” Manal said, adding that she dealt with themes such as Hafiz (incentive to find employment) and problems faced by women teachers among other issues.
Stressing the need for the establishment of special institutes for training women, Manal expressed her willingness to conduct workshops to help emerging women cartoonists, adding that to be a good cartoonist you do not need to possess a high level of drawing skills. But a sharp eye for criticism is essential.


On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

Kingdom tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock)
Updated 46 min 10 sec ago
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On track for 2030? Movers and shakers in KSA look ahead

  • “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity," says Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita.
  • Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail.

RIYADH: Saudi Vision 2030 kicked off with the aim of boosting non-oil revenues through capitalizing on current assets, utilizing resources, and starting up new industries.

In order to reach the objectives outlined in the plan, government bodies have launched many initiatives, which have proceeded with the support of the private sector as firms have cooperated through developing their strategic plans, and overcome many challenges. 

The 88th Saudi National Day provides an opportunity not only to celebrate unification, but also to look back on the achievements of Vision 2030 and take stock of how it is paving the way to economic reforms while carving out enhanced influence for its citizens on the world stage.

Here both public and private sector leaders who contribute to the economic transition plan share their thoughts on Vision 2030. 

Homam Hashem, Chief Executive Officer at Kafalah Fund, a financing guarantee program for small- and medium-sized enterprises, commented: ”One of the main objectives of Vision 2030 is to increase the contribution of the SME private sector to 35% of GDP. Small and medium enterprises have a significant impact on raising growth rates by raising financing opportunities and providing ways of success for the advancement of the sector. The program has contributed by raising the ceiling of guarantees for regular guarantees and developing specialized programs for the sectors (tourism, working capital support, and emerging enterprises). It has also attracted new sectors such as businesswomen and promising regions by providing additional incentives and developing many incentives that contribute to support raising local lending rates for small and medium enterprises up to 20% by 2030. The focus was on supporting the sectors that are compatible with the Kingdom's vision 2030 and diversifying the means of support.” 

Dr. Fahad Al-Shathri, Deputy Governor of Supervision at the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), said: “In view of the demographic challenges, Saudi Arabia cannot solely rely on the same economic model as during the past five decades, namely oil. Twelve years from now, I would expect the economy to be more dynamic and to have multiple sectors driving growth and job creation, including tourism and logistics. Entrepreneurship will be the central focus for young people in future, inspired by the great accomplishments of their peers. These will be the new drivers of the economy that Vision 2030 is aiming at, and we hope that everyone will strive to contribute to its success.”

As education will play a crucial role in the development of human capital in the Kingdom, we asked Alfaisal University president Dr. Mohammed Al-Hayaza for his take. The former Shoura Council member said: “The Ministry of Education has taken unprecedented measures to ensure that our institutes of higher education are both the best in the region and top-ranked internationally. Vision 2030 has developed job specifications for each field of education, and by utilizing these specifications Alfaisal University is closing the gap between the learning outcomes of higher education and that of the demands of the job market through continued targeted alignment.”

Dr. Saad Saleh Al-Rwaita, Vice-Rector for administrative and financial affairs at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, commented: “The comprehensiveness of Vision 2030 and the wider horizons it addresses positively transform the Saudi citizen’s life to become more integrative and enjoy new prosperity. 

The Vision will safeguard the Kingdom against dependence on circumstantial changes of the natural resources market and being influenced by external factors that are beyond our control, while empowering the Kingdom to create change and exert influence that surpass the local reality to direct the international compass and take the initiative, particularly in the economic field, in order to guarantee a bright future for the future generations.”

Looking to the real estate sector, Ehab Al Dabbagh, CEO of real estate development firm Ijmal, said the industry was likely to see big changes in future: “Firstly, the demand for housing products would be met. Technology and industrial progression will play a major role in building a variety of eco-friendly housing products. Houses could be ordered through an online application and fabricated in weeks.”

Another vital contributor in Vision 2030 is the food industry. Engineer Abdul-Mohsen Al-Yahya, who founded the chain of fast food restaurants Kudo, and currently an investor in supply and support at the food sector, said: “From my own experience in food services for more than 30 years in Saudi Arabia, I believe that in future the food service sector will continue to grow with more investments, products diversity and quality will increase, while continuing to become an extension of economic growth in Saudi Arabia and a key industry generating employment opportunities.”

Cybersecurity has a crucial role to play in accomplishing Vision 2030 objectives, explained Dr. Areej Alhogail, assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, who sits on the Saudi group of information security, said: “The Kingdom has taken pioneering steps, such as establishing the National Cybersecurity Authority, the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, and allocating scholarships in the field of information security. (These initiatives) will enable the Kingdom to be at the forefront of countries in the field of cybersecurity by 2030, and will protect the local economy, perhaps attracting foreign investments in various fields of information to be the ideal environment of trained local professionals and advanced laboratories and legislation protection.”