The Third International Caricature Gathering in Cairo
That education is the mainstay of the progress of nations is a fact no one can argue against. With this in mind, the week-long Third International Caricature Gathering held in Cairo last month chose education as its main topic. The caricaturists were free to choose the second topic; they opted to depict issues that included terrorism, pollution, peace and tolerance.
Organised jointly by the Egyptian Association for Caricature and the Union of Caricaturists, the gathering opened on 20 March at the Arts Palace of the Cairo Opera House by Culture Minister Helmy al-Namnam who expressed his pleasure at being present at such a significant event.
The jury members, Muhammad Effat, Nabil Sadek, Muhammad Omar, and Tamer Youssef, had picked more than 770 artworks out of a total 2700 submitted by some 320 caricaturists from 69 countries around the globe for display at the gathering.
The gathering was directed by caricaturist Gomaa Farahat, and convened by Fawzy Mursi.
The gathering of cartoonists has put Egypt on the global map of caricature, and has at the same time contributed to highlighting the genre in Egypt and promoting the experience of Egyptian cartoonists through viewing the most recent international creations.
“Because cartoons have become one of the most important sources of humour in Egypt and the whole world, this year’s gathering has seen exceptional participation,” Mr Mursi said.
Egyptian cartoonist Tamer Youssef, a member of the jury for the third year in succession, told Watani that the works submitted by cartoonists were evaluated basing on the good choice of topic and the excellence of satirical or humorous depiction. “It was also important how far these artworks kept up with the latest or thorniest world issues,” he said.
“Egyptian participant cartoonists, especially the younger ones, aimed at introducing the best of their work with the purpose of weighing themselves against international competition,” Mr Youssef added.
This year’s gathering was dedicated to the soul of the prominent Egyptian cartoonist Adel al-Battrawi (1942 – 2015) who was especially famous for his captivating illustrations of children’s books, and honoured two other caricaturists from Egypt: Abdel-Aziz Tag and Muhammad Hakem.
A number of the winning artworks in the first competition for portrait caricature, named in honour of veteran Egyptian cartoonist George Bahgory, were displayed in a separate room.
This year’s topic—education—was skilfully depicted in all its aspects. Everyone and everything involved in the process of education, teaching, and learning represented fertile ground for the creative artistic work of the participants. Pupils and students, teachers, curricula, graduates, teaching methods, violence in schools, the intertwined relations between traditional printed material and modern online teaching material all came in for the satire and humour of the cartoonists.
Especially significant were Adham Lotfy’s four portraits of prominent figures who left remarkable imprints on education in Egypt: Khedive Ismail (1830 –1895), the spendthrift ruler of Egypt who took substantial moves towards the modernisation of the country; Ali Pasha Mubarak (1823 – 1893), the Egyptian public works and education minister during the second half of the 19th century who was a pioneer in advancing education in Egypt; Rifaa al-Tahtawi (1801 – 1873) an Egyptian writer, teacher, translator, Egyptologist and renaissance intellectual; and Taha Hussein (1889 – 1973), one of the most influential 20th century Egyptian writers and intellectuals, and a figurehead of the Egyptian renaissance and modernist movement in the Middle East and North Africa.
Lotfy’s distinguished portraits have appeared in some 20 Egyptian and Arab newspapers and magazines, among which are Al-Arabi al-Nasseri and the UAE’s Al-Khaleej magazine.
Among the young and promising cartoonists who participated in the gathering was Muhammad al-Qahttani from Kuwait, who began to draw cartoons in 1998 and works as a schoolteacher. He entered three artworks that showed his skill at capturing a portrait in one or two minutes, which he demonstrated so well with the audience who attended the opening day.
The gifted young Egyptian cartoonist Omar Seddiq specialises in portraiture with an extra focus on the face and its miniature features. He is one of the lucky ones to have studied for a year under the great artist Nagy Kamel (1934 – 2013), the sculptor, painter and committed caricaturist who pioneered in these three fields.
Mustafa al-Sheikh was one of the young cartoonists to represent Egypt at this year’s forum. He entered a portrait of the late cartoonist Battrawi to whom the forum was dedicated in homage to his lifetime contribution to caricature.
Artist Ibrahim Heneitar, also among the participant cartoonists, praised the international contributions to the gathering and described them as “committed to perfect execution both in idea and execution.”
Many Egyptian cartoonists find in the open skies and social media sites a forum well-suited to the publication of their works. One such artist is Farouq Moussa whose cartoons were printed in the Egyptian State-owned daily Al-Gomhouriya and the Saudi Okaz, but are now posted on social media sites where, he says, “there are no restrictions”.
As the gathering of cartoonists in Egypt goes from one success after another, it is to be hoped that, some day, Egyptian universities whose arts departments offer tuition in fine arts will adopt a specialised annual convention on caricature to be accompanied by an international exhibition for cartoons.
6 April 2016