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[SLIDESHOW] ‘Je Suis Charlie’: Fellow cartoonists respond

The horrific slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists last week was met with an intense and heartfelt response by the international community. We spoke to artists and cartoonists who are emboldened to carry on plying their trade despite the fear-mongering tactics of extremists, and who responded with their own cartoons in a show of solidarity. 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
12 January 2015, 7:46am
Cartoon by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon by Mark Scicluna
Cartoon by Gorg Mallia
Cartoon by Gorg Mallia
Gorg Mallia

Cartoonist, lecturer

Such a vile, intransigent attack on a democratic society’s right to free speech cannot but be incredibly shocking. There is no doubt it has sent waves of revulsion throughout that part of the world that thinks each of its citizens has a right to a personal opinion. Cartoonists have often been the target of violent groups and individuals that take themselves and what they do too seriously.

They feel that ridicule lessens their power, which often depends on a close-minded adherence to some dogmatic belief or autocratic system. In fact ridicule does just that. I have always described cartoonists as those who lance boils that have grown too large with the puss of self-delusion. It is not surprising that such intransigence has no sense of humour, and often boils over into senseless violence, though there is always a solid excuse, in the mind of such extremists, as to why they are doing it!

Cartoonists have to be courageous creatures, because they face the ire of bombastic people all the time. For them to persist in poking fun at those who grow too big for their boots, there has to be an innate need to paint in large brushstrokes the ills they perceive need signposting. The killing of Charb and the other four cartoonists on Wednesday, I am sure, was meant as a warning to desist. I am quite certain that, given the nature of the beast, the very opposite will be the result.

Yes, they have managed to silence five incredibly talented visual artists, who, though often rude and crude, had the glaring defects of politics, religion… well, all of society, really… clearly in their cross-hairs. But, as we can see through the thousands of cartooned tributes, the violence has instigated a rising tide of reaction that is encompassing the democratic world.

I can give myself as an example. Though I am no longer producing regular published cartoons of late, the Paris massacre has made me reach for my pencils and pens. It has made me want to reach out with the one weapon that seems to scare these fanatical, religious extremists, because they do not understand it. Because it is not in their nature to smile and see the lighter side of things. Because theirs is a sad world that they want to impose on all of us. Well, this might sound naive and unrealistic, but there is a lot of power in humour, and if the cartoonists of the world have anything to say about it, it is not going to happen.

Mark Scicluna
Mark Scicluna
Mark Scicluna

Cartoonist

Some people might think that satirical cartoonists get a kick out of spreading hatred and humiliating people in power. Humour is indeed a key part of satirical cartoons, because it allows us to laugh at people who are more powerful than us, at situations we cannot escape from, but mostly it allows us to quickly digest information. Not everyone reads long articles, but it’s hard to miss a cartoon. Satirical cartoonists aim to not simply express themselves, but also to express the views of the public and to shed a harsh light on subjects that might be difficult to express in writing.

As a cartoonist myself, I was shaken when I heard about the Charlie Hebdo shooting. I’ve been reading various articles and social media threads about it, ranging from people who are arguing that what happened in Paris is a blow to our freedom of speech, and others who asserted that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists somehow should have expected, almost deserved such an attack after publishing their racist cartoons.

It has to be mentioned that Charlie Hebdo has also mocked the Pope, Jesus, Christianity, Judaism and Capitalism several times in the past, so it is not just an anti-Islam publication. In fact, Charlie Hebdo mocks pretty much everyone. Charlie Hebdo have dared depict Mohammed in the past. These cartoonists touched on subjects that very few contemporary artists would dare address. Should they have expected what happened? Probably, but they still risked it, and I don’t presume it’s just because they felt strongly about the subject, it’s also because they thought they had the right to do so, until reality gunned them down. We all have freedom of speech, except for when we don’t.

The terrifying thing about this tragedy is the fact that in this day and age, we can expect to be punished, murdered in this case, for saying what we believe in, for expressing an opinion, for making a powerful drawing. This is detrimental to communication, to democracy, and it questions the very essence of art.  Censorship is a dirty weapon that lashes at artists generally when they dare touch politics and religion. I am myself facing charges for a cartoon that I drew for MaltaToday that apparently should not have been published. Although I didn’t get killed for drawing it, I feel that I’m being bullied to think hard before I draw. 

Admittedly I had second thoughts about posting the cartoon that I did to support the Charlie Hebdo tragedy on Facebook (pictured), but as soon as I became conscious of these second thoughts, I posted it, and I am glad that I wasn’t the only one. Us not supporting Charlie Hebdo would mean that terrorism is successful in shutting us up.

We must not give in to terrorism, we must not be afraid, we must not stop drawing and most of all, as Martin Rowson, (The Guardian cartoonist) put it, “We must not stop laughing”.

Mark Scicluna is MaltaToday’s editorial cartoonist

Rufus Dayglo
Rufus Dayglo
Rufus Dayglo

Comic book artist

Paris is London’s sister city... an attack on her, is an attack on us. I stand by all artists, writers, creators, using words and pictures to change and improve the world.

Free speech cannot and will not be silenced: we will use our humour, our art, and our love.

Rufus Dayglo is an acclaimed British comic book artist of high profile titles such as Tank Girl, and was a guest at Malta Comic Con 2014

Seb Tanti Burlo
Seb Tanti Burlo
Seb Tanti Burlo

Cartoonist

I feel heartbroken, angry, affronted. If I didn’t have cartooning, I would have probably turned to rage. The greatest thing about being a cartoonist is that you can take these emotions, all the negative energy produced by such atrocities, and translate them into a message.

Such acts only send one message to satirists and artists: Fight back. Fight back with all the wit and love you can muster. This is what I learnt from the life and cartoons of my father [Maurice Tanti Burlo] and I will make sure to uphold and defend these values with my weapon of choice – the Pen.

These blows will surely leave nasty scars upon freedom of expression, but they will also make our resolve to champion it that much stronger.

“Love is stronger than hate.”

Cartoon by Thomas Cuschieri
Cartoon by Thomas Cuschieri
Thomas Cuschieri

Cartoonist, illustrator

The spontaneous vigils that sprang up across Europe were very moving – as was the show of solidarity online. It was heartening, too, to see so many powerful cartoons drawn in response to the attack. But I guess I still struggle with the sheer heinousness of it all.

It’s disheartening to see the Islamophobic backlash – such a repulsive yet depressingly predictable consequence. I believe that a lot of cartoonists hope, ultimately, that their work can challenge the ignorance that feeds intolerance.

Wakud Nabhan
Wakud Nabhan
Walid Nabhan

Author, poet

Undoubtedly this is a very hideous and coward attack on human civility and its dearly-held values. I am equally horrified and shocked, and very frightened of any scenarios which might follow. Muslim communities will undoubtedly be burdened with the consequences of such a treacherous felony.

European far-right groups have been given a fresh transfusion, and it is very easy to fall in the same trap which your enemy is caught in. However any assertion that Muslims have permanently become associated with death, destruction or terror, and that Koran has taught Muslims to behave in this way, might only demonstrate a new form of ignorance of Islam. Demonisation of the other would never be a sufficient basis for any kind of decent and constructive dialogue.

Something like this must be looked upon from Islam, like any other religious entity. It is a complex reality that harbours various and sometimes extremely conflicting positions; there is the liberal thought, the pragmatic, the conservative and unfortunately the fundamental set of thoughts which the vast majority of Muslims reject.

This diversity in Islam is true for all other religions, traditions and nations. It is a very difficult moment for all. I will always count on our internal resources of compassion and understanding, which should prevent us from descending to the level of murderers. 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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