Out with the Old and in with the New: Political Cartooning in Today’s Egypt

feature image, public domain, www.comicbookplus.com, Witty Comics, Irwin H. Rubin

Journalism has always been a vehicle for keeping governments transparent and the public aware of those who rule over them. It’s also the first place to attack or stifle if the government wishes to maintain as much control over its people as possible. The political cartoons you see in news outlets (online and in print) play a role in that as well, and, as seen in the Daily News Egypt article by Marwa Morgan, they’re not immune to censorship either.

The article looks at a particular cartoonist, twenty-eight year old Mohamed Qandeel (aka Andeel), who left his job at a local newspaper after being shut down for drawing a series of cartoons that opposed President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. What’s particularly interesting about this article is the discussion of the relative lack of cartoons that depict Al-Sisi, both negatively and positively. This lack is due in part to “the fact that ‘the military is an institution that has much respect'”: Al-Sisi was the former head of Egypt’s armed forces and had a lot of support from the people for his presidential bid.

In February, the Scaf gave him the green light to stand for president, in what it said was a response to the “desire of the masses” – BBC News

Andeel goes on to discuss the laziness of cartoonists relying on old school representations and symbols “such as portraying corrupt officials as a man with stacks of money and a cigar.”

Andeel, however, draws a relationship between the current political context and the original context in which the old cartoon symbols were created. Using fresh symbols, he said, is one way to dodge censorship.
“The nationalist representation has always been there,” he said. As new symbols emerged over the past couple of decades, however, these ideas became less popular. Now, with the revival of “old” political ideas, some of the “old symbols” are becoming popular again, he said.
The idea of portraying Egypt as a “fertile, beautiful woman of strength and pride” was a response to the “autocracy and nationalist ideas” of the 1960s, he said. He prefers to portray Egypt as houses. “To me Egypt is this landscapethe urban face,” he said.

I’m all for speaking out on political issues, whether it’s through words, video, or art. Egypt kicked off the use of social media and the Internet in their revolution, so I’m not surprised if these young cartoonists go that route due to traditional institutions deciding to censor their voices.

Ardo Omer

Ardo Omer

Former WWAC editor. Current curmudgeon and Batman's personal assistant. Icon art by Diana Sim.