When Cartoons Speak Louder Than Words

Why is it rare to see the work of women cartoonists in India, and abroad?  Is it a good idea to use only two colours? Does a dark background always shine light on the subject? Are captions information or distraction?

These were some questions raised at the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC) on the occasion of International Cartoonists Day. Sixty nine cartoonists’ works were displayed at the exhibition. The entries were competing for ‘Best Foreign Cartoon’ at the 10th edition of the Maya Kamath Memorial Award.

The audience comprised of young and old people, all admiring the displays and carrying animated discussions. No Sir, that stroke is thin which is why it’s visually more appealing. You have got it wrong, it’s the play with colours that helps.

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One cartoon was a commentary on how America promised the idea of peace only to end up disrupting whatever little peace there was already. The picture had a bald Eagle against a black background. The Eagle’s beak was a dove timidly holding an olive branch.

Another cartoon mocked Donald Trump’s disastrous opinions on Climate Change. The cartoon depicted Trump as a fish in search of food. Planet Earth here is Trump’s food which he is getting ready to gobble up to bits. 
 
Another cartoon depicted the European Union logo waving its hands – as if asking for help.

The people standing around the displays moved deftly between English and Kannada. But as soon as Kannada entered the conversation, Election talk was not far behind. ‘It would have made sense to have these cartoons say something about the Hungama around State Elections,’ whispered someone.

But the election scene is too funny to even merit a cartoon, observed someone else.

People seemed to find the bright yellow light fixtures right above the displays to be of great help during mandatory selfie sessions. In one corner, the watchman sat staring at the TV, tapping his foot occasionally to a Kannada song. Now and then he glanced at the people taking selfies.

Two old ladies stood in a corner, having heated arguments about a cartoon on the Facebook Privacy scandal. After a while they stopped talking. One of them stared at the cartoon, as if waiting for a prophecy and the other looked flustered by the absence of captions.

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It seemed bizarre that the only people to look clueless in this world were two journalists. One cartoonist got very irritated with them. He had been explaining to them about the exhibition for the second time. After a while he gave up, and was later seen thrusting a couple of pamphlets towards them, begging them to read.

The programme was inaugurated by noted painter, sculptor and enamellist Balan Nambiar. Amarnath Kamath, trustee of the Maya Kamath Memorial Awards was the guest of honour for the ceremony.

They had received submissions from 80 cartoonists. The highest number of entries came in from China (21) followed by Turkey(9)

Uzbekistan-based Makhmud Eshonkulov’s cartoon on the European Migrant crisis won the first place.

Indonesian cartoonist Jitet Kutsana’s caricature on the loss of childhood due to technology won the second place. Five other cartoonists received special mentions.

In a delightful move away from the traditional lamp-lighting, Chief Guest Balan Nambiar was asked by the organisers to draw a caricature to inaugurate the proceedings.

In his address, Nambiar said that he was displeased with the low standards of cartoons today. “The 60’s cartoons published in The Hindu were much more sarcastic than they are today”

Referring to the displayed cartoons, Mr Nambiar said that he appreciated the diversity and clarity they brought to the event. He also commended the foreign cartoonists’ work and said “The variety of cartoons commenting on various socio-political issues helps us in understanding how these issues are viewed in each country”

V.G Narendra, Managing trustee of IIC brought focus back to the current breed of Indian Cartoonists and said that they should break away from the loop of having captions and words along with it. He believed pictures alone would be enough to drive the point.

He also said that he trusts the exhibition to be an opportunity for budding cartoonists to deliver hard-hitting points.

The jury for the awards this year were Actor Girish Karnad, Painter S.G Vasudev, and Cartoonists B.G.Gujjarappa, and Satish Acharya.

Cash Prizes for the winners of the Maya Kamath Memorial Awards will be given in the categories for Excellence in Political Cartooning, Best Foreign Cartoon, Special Jury Appreciation Award, and Best Budding Cartoonist.

The award ceremony is on June 2 at the Indian Cartoon Gallery and the exhibition will remain open till May 26.

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