by Talal Nayer
Cartoons! What a word spread among millions and millions of people all around the world, it made them laugh and cry. Whenever I see a great cartoon, I remember a quote by Henry Ward Beecher saying that: “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” honestly this is one of the greatest quotations ever been told about art and artists.
The cartoonist provides political and social awareness through drawings because the hand which holds the pen is one, but it expresses issues of thousands and millions of the oppressed and the marginalized. A cartoonist must not paint for her personal glory; also he should not consider himself as a government employee to fill in an empty white space on a paper, it’s a big responsibility to be a cartoonist.
I consider cartoonists are like historians, they record our lives in cartoons. Artists draw and document human history. With their pens, they draw all mankind’s emotions, happiness, and sadness. They are witnesses on victories and defeats of nations. They can see all little details of change which is the normality of our world. Cartoonist work on criticism and reveal the main causes of our suffering and not only side effects. I perceive any caricature as a (direct free-kick)!
I consider cartoons as our way to clear our visions. It’s our weapon which can be used to fight corruption, poverty, ignorance and make peace. Cartoons are one of the most powerful opinion tools and should be utilized to show people the real values of democracy, equality, peace and human rights. A cartoonist should have enough awareness to help make our world a better place to live in. The great philosopher Karl Marx once said:”Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time." And with art we can achieve more than expected.
Sudanese cartoons are relatively modern. Sudan has known this art since 1821 when the army of Ottoman Empire occupied the country. They brought with them the stories and tales of The Near East. Charters of those stories and tales spread widely; among them was "Juhah". Many countries have similar characters with different names, for example; in Iran and Azerbaijan he is called "Molla Nasreddin", and in Turkey; he is known as “Nasreddin Hodja”.
The stories and jokes of these characters spread widely among poor people in towns and villages, generations pass them to generations. During the occupation of Sudan by Britain and Egypt (1898-1956), Sudanese newspapers like Al-Sudan Al-Hadeeth, Al-Hadara and Al-Fajr published cartoons from English magazines like "Punch". The Sudanese newspapers used cartoons from Egyptian magazines like “Abu Naddara”, “Sabah Al-Khair” and “Rose Al-Youssef’. Until the beginnings of 1940’s there were no Sudanese cartoonists.
The first Sudanese cartoonist was Adam Eisa, he published his cartoons in “Al-Sebyan” Magazine which has been started in 1946, and he was the only cartoonist in the magazine and Sudan at that time. Sa’ad Gisemallah joined “Al-Sebyan” in 1949. The magazine became a joining point of Sudanese cartoonists like Sharrhabeel Ahmed, Shiber Alkabeer, Hashim Karouri, Ezzaddin Osman, etc.
The magazines of (Radio and Television) and (Youth and Sports) became also as joining points where artists Hamid Atta, Edmon Muneer, Algoni draw their cartoons and illustrations.
The most famous Sudanese cartoonist Ezzaddin Osman (1933-2008) became the most well-known cartoonist after Sudan’s independence on the 1st of January 1956. Ezzaddin started his work in "Al-Akhbar" newspaper 1959 and then he transferred to "Alray Al-Aam","Al-Ayam" and "Al-Sahafa" newspapers. In the early years of 1980’s “Ezzaddin” had been banished to United Arab Emirates for ten years because one of his cartoons against the Minister of transports in the government of the ex-president Gaafar Nimeiry.
Ezzaddin turned back to Sudan in 1986 after 6th of April popular uprising against General “Gaafar Nimeiry”, the uprising which brought democracy back to Sudan. Ezzaddin continued his work with "Al telegram” and “Nabbed Al-Caricature” and "Al-Sharie Al-Seyasi" newspapers. He retired and stopped drawing cartoons in 2005.
Ezzaddin Osman had a great influence on the Sudanese politics and society. He had a great ability in creating public opinion. Ismail Al-Azhari, first Sudanese Prime Minster after Independence was accustomed to start his day by reviewing Ezzaddin Osman’s cartoons which were discussed in markets, streets and offices, some of his works became famous in Sudan and still being discussed.
In the 1970’s appeared cartoonists like Hashim Karouri, Aba Yazeed, Abu Shouk, Amin Imam, Awad Zayed, Hamid Atta, Al-Shafae Mohammed Sadiq, Adbelazeem Bayrem, Mohammed Bayrem, Ibraheem Rehan, Sami Almak, Edmon Moneer, Mohammed Khojali Kararawi and Hassan Musa.
The eighties was a transitional period. New artists appeared in the era of new democracy like Moneim Hamza, Salah Hamada, Mohammed Abu Sabeeb, Omer Jadalrabb, Tariq Osman, Emad Lala and Saed Baraka. And again art cartoon gained good refreshment because of the freedom of speech and the momentum of political events and strong competition between Sudanese political parties, which were campaigning for the first democratic elections after Nimeiry in 1986. The elections brought “Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi” at the head of a coalition government. Al-Mahdi was one of the most Sudanese politicians portrayed in the caricatures and cartoons in the last 50 years. The cartoonist Hashim Karouri published a cartoon book about Al-Mahdi titled “The microphone of Mr. Prime Minister” in 1988. It was and still is one of the most famous cartoon books in Sudan.
In 1989 The National Islamic Front turned over the democratic government by a military coup. All the newspapers were closed and many cartoonists lost their jobs. Some of them retired, some immigrated. The new government established its newspapers and attracted new artists; the artists of older generations reduced their activity for a while.
Cartoon art in Sudan reached its climax point in 1994 when "Nabbed Al-Caricature" or "Cartoon Pulse" was published to be the first specialized cartoon newspaper. Nabbed Al-Caricature and Moneim Hamza its “editor in chief” succeeded in gathering dozens of talented cartoonists in Sudan like Ezzaddin Osman, Fares Saleh, Badradeen Mohamed Ahmed, Atiff Wad Al-Hajj, Magdi Hussein, Hassan Shagag, Ali Ad’dueid, Abdelelah Siddiq and many more.
In the middle of Nineties “Nabbed Al-Caricature became the best-selling newspaper in Sudan. Its distribution overtopped all the sport, political and social newspapers. After that, many cartoon-specialized newspapers were established such as "Al-Awail", "Alam Al-Azkeya", "Donya Al-Caricature” and Alam Al-Comedia". Many cartoonists appeared in that newspapers like Adbelrahman Kojaja, Hasan Ahmed, Nader Genie, Amani Zain Alabedeen, Ghazi Aloqoubb, Talal Nayer, Mortada Al-Tayeb, Ahmed Al-Rasheed, Mazin Mustafa.
All these specialized newspapers were supposed to be a strong base for this art nourishment. But unfortunately, most of them stopped working. Now only “Nabbed Al-Caricature" is being published beside "Al-Awail".
One way or another, the art of cartoon in Sudan is highly influenced by the political situations. Forms of governance and political situations became a very decisive and contributed significantly to the matter of appearance and continuity of cartoonists. Also it had a strong influence on the issues discussed by the artists. Every political regime brought a new vision and widely contributed to the formation of the conditions for art and culture in the country.
In some way the cartoon is a political art and cartoonists became a part of the political equation. Cartoonists are very effective in making the public opinion; their cartoons can make a difference sometimes. A swift look at the history of cartoon in Sudan can show us the role of cartoonists in the development in the country.
Artists draw and document human history. With brushes they capture all human motions, their happiness and sadness, victory and defeat. The artist can freeze history in one painting and the painting becomes “… just another way of keeping a diary” as Pablo Picasso said.