Cartoons are narratives of social observations

Updated 14 June 2014

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.


Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

Updated 19 August 2019

Photo exhibition recalls 90 years of Saudi-Lebanon ties

  • Thousands of photos on display
  • Ties ‘rooted’ in history, says Kingdom’s ambassador

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari and Lebanon’s Minister of Information Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah on Monday inaugurated a photography exhibition celebrating 90 years of bilateral relations.

The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives and the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation provided the embassy in Lebanon with historical documents and photos for the exhibition, which was launched on World Photography Day. Some of the material dates back more than 90 years.

Bukhari said the exhibition’s content proved that the countries’ relations were rooted in history and recalled the words of King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman, who said: “Lebanon is part of us. I protect its independence myself and will not allow anything to harm it.”

Jarrah, who was representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “We need this Arab embrace in light of the attacks targeting the Arab region and we still need the Kingdom’s support for Lebanon’s stability, because Lebanon is truly the center from which Arabism originated.”

The exhibition starts with a document appointing Mohammed Eid Al-Rawaf as the Kingdom’s consul in Syria and Lebanon. It was signed by King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Faisal Al-Saud in 1930 and states that the consul’s residence is in Damascus and that his mission is to “promote Saudi merchants, care for their affairs and assist them with their legal and commercial interests.”

Black and white pictures summarize milestones in the development of bilateral relations, while others depict key visits and meetings between leaders and dignitaries.

“The exhibition demanded great efforts because the pieces were not found at one single location,” former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told Arab News. “Circulating this activity in the Kingdom’s embassies in numerous countries is a great step and has pushed the Lebanese Ministry of Information to benefit from this archive. The Lebanese people remember the important positions the Kingdom has taken over the year to support their independence and sovereignty and in hard times.”

Lebanon, particularly Beirut, is a hit with Saudi travelers although the Kingdom had been advising citizens since 2011 to avoid the country, citing Hezbollah’s influence and instability from the war in neighboring Syria. 

But the easing of restrictions since February has led to a surge in Saudis heading to Lebanon.

Riyadh earlier this year released $1 billion in funding and pledged to boost Lebanon’s struggling economy. Another sign of warming ties was an anniversary event marking the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father that featured Saudi Royal Court adviser Nizar Al-Aloula as a keynote speaker.

“The exhibition highlights the unique model of Lebanese-Arab relations that should be taught in diplomatic institutes, starting with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry,” former minister Marwan Hamadeh told Arab News. “Over the course of 90 years, we have had brotherly ties and political support for independence, freedom, growth, economy and culture and then the Taif Accord (which ended the Lebanese Civil War). Even after that, when Lebanon engaged in military adventures, the Kingdom was there to help with reconstruction and we are proud of these relations.”

Highlights include a recording of King Faisal telling President Charles Helou about the need to strengthen “brotherhood in the face of the aggression targeting our countries without respecting the sanctity of holy sites and international, human and moral norms to extend its influence not only in the region but across the world.”

There are also photos from a recent meeting that brought together King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Lebanese officials. 

An old broadcast recording can be heard saying that the “tragedy of the Lebanese civil war can only be ended by affirming the Lebanese legitimacy and preserving its independence and territorial integrity.”

The exhibition is on at Beit Beirut, which is located on what used to be the frontline that divided the city during the civil war.