Arab World’s Top Cartoonists Shed Light On Power Of Caricature At Government Communication Forum
Sharjah , UAE - February 28, 2012:
“Caricature, especially in print is an effective way to relay messages to the public, said Omayya Joha, Chairperson of the cartoon production house, Juhatoon.
Commenting on the importance many readers in the Arab world place on caricature to keep track of the latest news, Joha said: “Most readers start reading newspapers from the last page where the caricatures are usually found. Caricature helps to shed light on a certain subject in a concise manner. The caricaturist should, therefore, have a firm grasp of the subject and be quick-witted.”
Joha’s comments came during a session titled ‘The Role of Caricatures in Correcting Misconceptions and Raising Levels of Awareness’ on the second day of the Government Communication Forum 2012.
Attended by leading government officials and top-tier regional and global media thought leaders, the event that opened on 26 February concludes today at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).
Emad Hajjaj, a well-known Jordanian cartoonist, and Rasha Mahdi, Egypt’s first female cartoonist, jointly headlined the interactive discussion.
Hajjaj said: “Caricature is one of the most influential art forms in the world with a universal appeal, a reason why we as caricaturists must take our responsibility seriously. Post 9/11, there has been a deep-seated view of Arabs as terrorists around the world, and I felt I had to help dispel these stereotypes by sharing my work in the international media.
“The advantage of being a caricaturist is that you are able to freely express yourself. It’s unfortunate that there are those who practice self-censorship, stifling creativity in the process.”
Mahdi said: “It is widely believed that caricature can be paired with journalism and a caricaturist is semi-journalist and semi-artist. A picture can be very important in overcoming transnational boundaries and the best picture is the one that needs no commentary. Caricature itself is a double-edged sword helping us vent our thoughts and feelings with a single image creating entire movements.”
Regarded as the Arab world’s first female cartoonist, Omayya Joha is also the editor of the monthly Yazan magazine. Currently, she is a cartoonist with Al Hayat Al Jadidah, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper, as well as the East Jerusalem-based Al Quds newspaper, Qatar’s Al Raya newspaper and Al Jazeera’s news website. Omayya Joha was honoured with the Arab Journalism Award for the cartoon category during its first edition (2001), as well as the Creative Woman Award, the highest accolade of the Palestinian Creative Women Society (2008), and the grand prize at the Naji Al Ali contest in Turkey (2010).
Emad Hajjaj is described by Arabian Business Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Arab figures. His work has been published in leading dailies in Jordan as well as the wider region. Newsweek magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Times have also published his works. Creator of the ‘Abu Mahjoub’ character, he is known for his subtle commentary on the world of politics and cinema through the medium of cartoons. His work has been acknowledged through the King Hussein Creativity Press Award (2001) and the Arabic Journalism Award (2006 & 2010).
Rasha Mahdi is Egypt’s first female cartoonist and is regarded as a ground-breaking storyboard illustrator, graphic designer and creative head for advertising campaigns. She mooted the idea of setting up an organisation for Arab women cartoonists. A member of the Organization of Egyptian cartoonists and the Egyptian Fine Artists Syndicate, Mahdi has held exhibitions in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco.
Over a two-day agenda of intensive deliberations, GCF 2012 brought together representatives and editors-in-chief of television, radio stations and newspapers, as well as columnists, researchers and students of different media majors from across the world and the Arab region. Set to become an annual event, the first edition of the forum spotlighted the Sharjah Media Centre and examined its mandate to develop and oversee communicationalbest practices for government institutions in Sharjah.