Friday, February 17, 2023

Boris receives prize for humanitarian work

T'Cha Dunlevy in The Montreal Gazette.

Montreal Gazette political cartoonist Jacques Goldstyn, better known as Boris, received this week  the Artist for Peace Award, granted by the École nationale de l’humour.

The artist, who became the first cartoonist to win the award on Tuesday, believes everyone can play a part in social change.

The prize, created in 1988, is a testament to “the contribution we can all make — me by my drawings, other people in other ways,” Goldstyn said.

He has contributed drawings to Amnesty International, pro bono, for over 20 years. 

He also offers his services to the peace organization Échec à la guerre, as well as Livres comme l’air, which brings attention to authors imprisoned around the world.

“These are not things I do for money,” he said. “I’m not paid, but they’re important to me. It keeps me from sleeping to know there are people, artists and journalists locked up in other countries. 

We have to do something to bring attention to that.”

Goldstyn regularly visits schools to talk to students about what he does, and also contributes cartoons to the children’s magazine Les Débrouillards

He likes making drawings that even children can comprehend.

“Kids who are nine or 10 years old understand my cartoons,” he said. “Or they’ll ask, ‘Why are there tanks? What’s this about Putin, or Ukraine?’ It leads to conversations.

“For me, a good cartoon makes you think. If you cut it out and put it on the fridge, all the better. 

I like the Montreal Canadiens, but I don’t want to do cartoons for them. I like volunteering my talents to organizations that need them.”

Goldstyn has authored several books under his own name, including Letters to a Prisoner, published in 2017, about a writer who is incarcerated and ends up being given wings to fly away by people who write to him.

“It’s poetry, but it’s a way to talk about prisoners who are locked up for their ideas,” he said.

He contributes a weekly cartoon to the Montreal Gazette, and credits longtime Gazette political cartoonist Terry Mosher, a.k.a. Aislin, with bringing him on board seven years ago.

“Terry is someone very special,” Goldstyn said. “He tries to transmit his knowledge. 

He has travelled the world. He really wants to create a community of cartoonists. We’re people who like to laugh, a bit like court jesters.”

His latest cartoon, which appeared in Tuesday’s Gazette, depicts aid workers from around the world in Turkey, including representatives from Russia and Ukraine, all coming together to save lives after the earthquake.

Goldstyn created controversy in August with a cartoon showing an old lady whose dog is draped in a Canadian flag and peeing on a poster commemorating the 100th anniversary of René Lévesque’s birth.

“We have incredible freedom,” he said of Canadians. “When I meet people who have lived in countries with no freedom, a light goes on in my brain. I tell myself, ‘It’s fragile. This can disappear.’

“I’m 64, I feel like things will get better, but sadly human beings don’t understand. 

The arms race, intolerance, these things are still around. It’s disappointing, but we have to carry on and do this important work, by any means.”

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