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Posted On: 4 May 2009 11:27 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Promoting peace with cartoons

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With the possible outreach and implications of cartoons being made abundantly clear following the publication of a piece featuring a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten in 2005, a foundation called “Cartooning for Peace” has hit the front pages since its launch in 2007 with its message of promoting peace and tolerance. Intending to use their artistic and political inspiration for good causes, and to promote inter-cultural dialogue, the foundation features some 12 cartoonists from across the globe, who were brought together as part of an initiative from the former secretary-general of the UN, Kofi Annan. Following exhibitions at the UN Headquarters, Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Atlanta and Rome, among many other places, the foundation has managed to facilitate the sharing of ideas between its members as well as their readers. Speaking on the sidelines of the Unesco ‘World Press Freedom Day’ celebration yesterday, Gulf Times interviewed Michel Kichka, a member of the foundation and the conference’s only attendee from Israel. With two examples of Kichka’s work on display at the exhibition at the event, it becomes immediately clear that this Belgian Jewish artist, who moved to Israel some 35 years ago, is committed to provoking dialogue whilst combining subtle messages about the politics surrounding his country with the concept of constructing something good. One cartoon features a borderline with signs depicting rockets and bombs crossed out in red lines on the Israeli and Gazan sides respectively, whilst another features a prominent Hamas official wearing a bandana around his head in a ‘before’ picture, that transforms into a tie in the ‘after’ one. Both cartoons fail to demonise or dehumanise their subjects, yet still get their message across. “Israel may be a military superpower and Hamas may only have bombs, but the message is that both sides must stop using warfare,” he said, referring to his first piece. “I try not to be one-sided – I may disagree and dislike their policies, but I do not demonise them,” he argued, adding “it is too easy to go too far with cartoons, and it is important to remember that my work is seen not only by my fans, but is spread all over the world now.” Kichka said he was “very moved” and “excited” at the prospect of this visit to Qatar, as he has never travelled to a Gulf state before, and he claimed that the reception he received following his panel session at the event was “very enthusiastic.” “The idea behind our foundation is that we can be provocative within the spirit of tolerance,” he explained.”