Last year the Egyptian caricaturist Samir Abdel-Ghani won the Journalists’ Syndicate’s Caricature Prize. Abdel-Ghani enjoys writing film scripts; he wrote the screenplay for the animation Duetto, the serial Joy Forest and Bom Bom, a film in production for the national cinema centre. He is also preparing a programme for television about caricature to be shown on Nile TV and Dream channel.
Abdel-Ghani told Watani that his career in caricature began while he was still a student at Alexandria University, where he gained a business degree. In 1987 he ranked tenth in a caricature competition. A year later he came top, and from then on he embraced the genre.
“I recall that in 1988 I went to a seminar on the poet al-Sayed Aql held at the cultural palace in Alexandria. While the poet was being honoured, I drew him. This drawing was published by the writer Khairi Shalabi in the magazine TV and Radio.
“In 1992 I met the well-know Egyptian caricaturist Mustafa Hussein, who helped me publish some of my drawings in the magazine Caricature, but without being paid. My drawings were also published in several newspapers with foreign licences, as well as artistic magazines. Then in 1998 I went to work at al-Arabi. Because of some financial troubles, administrative corruption and other reasons, I was just a trainee until I was appointed in 2007. In the meantime I was getting a regular salary. I worked there because I loved caricature.”
“I then got a job in animation, which is more lucrative. Even so, I left it because I was captivated by caricature. After nine years I became a member of the Journalists’ Syndicate, and in the first year I won the first prize in caricature.” It is an achievement of which Abdel-Ghani is very proud.
“You ask if caricature is moving backwards in content and value,” Abdel-Ghani went on. “If you had asked me this question two or three years ago I would have said yes, but in an age that has seen the publication of new papers such as al-Badil, al-Masri al-Yom, al-Dostour and al-Yom al-Sabie it shows the way is open for young, fresh talents to prove themselves.
“Although,” Abdel-Ghani continued, “it is not fair to make a comparison between caricaturists of this generation and those veteran caricaturists from the golden age, among whom are the late Salah Jahin, George Bahgouri and Yehya al-Labbad. Those artists were lucky to grow up and work with the greatest writers and intellectuals such as Ihsan Abdel-Qudous, Ahmed Bahaa’eddin and Mustafa Mahmoud. In the shadow of satellite channels and the Internet, it is hard to find new talent.”
Asked if academic research might help promote caricature, Abdel-Ghani said this would contribute to raise awareness among those who are interested in the genre. However, the caricaturist needs to be known and his work to be discussed through television and radio.
Watani suggested that some of Abdel-Ghani’s cartoons appear non-critical of violence against women.
“If you look carefully at these drawings you will see that I am with women rather than against them,” Abdel-Ghani told us. “In these cartoons I actually condemn the men who harass women. The character in my caricature is not me, but it is the person whom I mean to mock. The caricaturist is created to criticise.”
“I mainly depend on the caption balloon, trying to make it sarcastic and to make a punch; playing with words and puns, but using one style in drawing the cartoon.
“I am not a good draughtsman, and I’m not shy to admit it. The most important, in my opinion, is to be honest,” he confessed.