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.


Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

Updated 18 min 8 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's envoy to UK: We won’t allow Iran to meddle in region 

  • “You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness,” Prince Khalid said
  • The ambassador encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it

LONDON: Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked, said the Saudi ambassador to Britain. 
“We do not seek conflict. We do not seek escalation. We have always been supporters of taking a firm stand against Iran. Our issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the regime running the country,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told the Daily Telegraph. 
“But we do not believe in appeasement. At no point in history has appeasement proved to be a successful strategy. You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness.”
France, Germany and the UK, three of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), triggered a “dispute resolution mechanism” recently in response to Iran ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the deal.
Prince Khalid criticized the JCPOA because it does not address “all the other things that Iran” is doing in the region.
“Iran’s meddling in the region is as challenging as the nuclear program. This is why we were concerned with the nuclear deal,” he said.
The ambassador also touched on recent allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“It is very easy for people to throw these unsubstantiated allegations against Saudi Arabia because they know that it is very difficult for Riyadh to defend itself when it does not have proper access to the details,” Prince Khalid said.
“We need to see the evidence before we make any response, because the evidence made public so far is circumstantial at best.”
Saudis do not always represent themselves well because they are “a reticent people and our culture does not push us to talking about ourselves,” he said. “We need to do a better job on showing the world who we really are.” 
The ambassador, who was appointed last year, encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it. 
“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. We want people to come and see Saudi Arabia for themselves, and not rely on what they have read somewhere or heard somewhere to form their opinion of the country,” he said.
“There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you.”