Lines of Freedom: Contemporary Arab CaricaturePublished: Nov 17, 2016 Reading time: 5 minutes
At the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague, Iraqi caricaturist Abdul Raheem Yassir opened an exhibition of caricatures from the Arab world entitled Lines of Freedom: Contemporary Arab Caricature. The illustrations on exhibit represent the artistic reflection of everyday life as well as important events in the unrest-filled region of North Africa and the Middle East.
"All important Iraqi periodicals publish caricatures. For people they are an interesting and comprehensible way of discussion about important topics, and are also open to interpretation,” says Yassir, who has been drawing since the 70s and has received many awards for his work, in his own country as well as abroad. He had for example exhibitions in Japan, Great Britain, Egypt, and Italy.
Nadia Khiari from Tunis, who with Yassir will also present her drawings to the Czech public, began working with satire during the Arab Spring events in her country. Since then her tomcat character named Willis from Tunis has gained great popularity thanks to his sharp humour. Finally, the exhibition will present a selection of drawings by Qatar-based Sudanese artist Khalid Albaih, whose caricatures focus primarily on political satire, and without the need for words comment on events in the region of North Africa and the Middle East that often affect the entire world.
“Arab caricature is capable of speaking to people in the Czech Republic too. For the exhibition, we purposely selected drawings concerning topics that resound here too. I trust that people will find it interesting to get to know the humour and critical view that garners great response in the Arab world,” says Věra Vojtíšková of People in Need, who also participated in selecting the drawings.
“In the past we [caricaturists] haven’t faced real danger, because everything was censored prior to publication. In those days, many more caricatures were rejected and we were unable to publish. Today we have more freedom, above all we can criticize the government more, but on the other hand officials are unable to protect us from ‘unofficial’ authorities that are not of the government,” says Yassir in describing the situation of Iraqi caricaturists. In other Arab countries, illustrators’ satirical drawings garner a harsh response from the ruling elites in the form of threats, prosecution, prison, travel bans, and so on. Many caricaturists thus live and work in exile.
The exhibition will be open to the public at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art from 17 November 2016 to 16 January 2017.
The following attendant programme with the participation of Abdul Raheem Yassir will be held at Langhans (People in Need, Vodičkova 37, Prague 1):
Masterclass for Young Artists and Caricaturists. (More information and a registration form available here), 17 November at 10:00 a.m.
A showing of the documentary film Caricaturists: Foot Soldiers of Democracyand a debate with Mr. Yassir, 17 November from 5:30 p.m.
Abdul Raheem Yassir (*1951) is a leading Iraqi cartoonist. He studied Fine Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Baghdad University. In 1970 he started publishing his paintings and drawings. Since 1971 he worked as a cartoon painter for Majalaty and Mizmar magazines. Between 1980 and 1990 he worked as a painter in the children’s programs division of the Institute of Television and Media. He has collaborated with many cultural magazines, organisations and artistic groups. His works were exhibited not only in Iraq, but also abroad, e.g. in Japan, UK, Egypt and Italy. Abdul Raheem Yassir has received a lot of domestic and international awards, moreover he was selected by the Observer Magazine critics as one of the best ten artists participating at the Bienale di Venezia Festival in 2013. In the same year the, Uyoun Agency selected him as the best Iraqi caricaturist. Abdul Raheem Yassir currently lives and works in Baghdad.
Nadia Khiari (*1973) is a distinguished Tunisian painter and cartoonist. Her main cartoon character, a tomcat called Willis from Tunis, was born on Thursday, 13 January, 2011, during a speech of the falling president of Tunisia, promising, among other things, freedom of expression. Initially the Willis cartoons were a way to share the author’s feelings and reflections of the historical revolutionary events Tunisians were going through. With a tone of wry humor, the tomcat chronicled the daily news. The Facebook page called WillisFromTunis was being visited by about twenty friends at that time, now Willis has over 46 thousand followers. Nadia Khiari has also drawn for media (Siné Mensuel, Courrier International, Zélium) and has released a collection of her works. She has received great number of prizes: the Award Honoré Daumier at the Cartooning for Peace meeting in Caen, the insignia of Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Liège in 2013, the international prize of political satire in Forte dei Marmi in 2014, The Agora Med Price in Genova in 2015 and The Couilles au Cul at the Off of Off Festival of Angouleme in 2016. Nadia Khiari currently lives and works in Tunis.
Khalid Albaih (*1980) is a Sudanese artist and political cartoonist born in Bucharest, Romania. He publishes his cartoons on social media under “Khartoon!,” a word play on cartoon and Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Albaih has published his cartoons widely in international publications including The Atlantic, PRI, and NPR, in addition to his written social and political commentary in publications such as The Guardian and Al Jazeera. His work has been exhibited in group exhibitions including “do it [in Arabic]” (Sharjah, UAE, 2016) and “RE:BELLION // RE:LIGION // RE:FORM – Artistic Action in Times of Crisis” (Zwickau, Germany, 2015) as well as solo exhibitions at Virgina Commonwealth University (Doha, Qatar, 2016), 1After360 Gallery (New Delhi, India, 2016), the Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, MI, 2015), McGill University Montreal, 2014), and Edge of Arabia (London, 2013). He currently lives and works in Doha, Qatar, where he has been based since 1990.
The exhibition has been prepared in cooperation with DOX by Insaan: Czech-Arab Centre for Cultural Dialogue, People in Need, Baraka: Centre for Cultures of North Africa and the Middle East, with financial support from the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue Between Cultures (ALF).