October 2, 2006
Cartooning for peace
Last year, the riots set off around the world by cartoons of the prophet Muhammed published in a Danish newspaper showed that the pen, if not mightier than the sword, is at least a major force in the arena of international affairs.
On Oct. 16, the divisiveness engendered at times by cartoons and caricatures will be the focal point of a United Nations seminar, presented by Emory’s Halle Institute for Global Learning. “Cartooning for Peace: The Responsibility of Cartoonists as Journalists” will take place at UN Headquarters in New York City and feature prominent political cartoonists from around the world and welcoming remarks from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Cartoonists from Kenya, Iran, France, the Palestinian territories, Israel, Mexico, Japan, Denmark and the United States will attend, including Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mike Luckovich.
The seminar, which is open to the public, will also feature a special UN exhibit of drawings by participants and other cartoonists from around the world.
The “Cartooning for Peace” seminar is the brainchild of Plantu, a political cartoonist for France’s Le Monde newspaper. When speaking at the Halle Institute last year, Plantu recounted the story of how he came up with the idea, which began when former Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat drew a Star of David and signed it for one of Plantu’s cartoons in 1991. “At the time, Arafat could not say, ‘I recognize the state of Israel,’” Plantu said. “Yet with a blue felt tip pen he drew the Star of David on the Israeli flag.”
A year later, Plantu asked Shimon Peres, then Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to sign the same drawing. It was the first time Israeli and Palestinian officials had signed the same document. “Since then,” Plantu said. “I have thought a lot about the role of newspaper cartoonists in promoting peace.”
The seminar is part of the UN Department of Public Information’s “Unlearning Intolerance” series, which explores ways to promote respect and understanding among peoples. Past seminars have addressed anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, the role of media, and combating genocide.
The seminar will be webcast at www.un.org/webcast. For more information on this event, including a gallery of cartoons, visit the Halle Institute’s Web site at www.oia.emory.edu/halle.