March 17, 2008
Cartooning: Front row at Kenya conflict
Alma Freeman is communications specialist for the Office of International Studies.
Although the violence and conflict that erupted from December’s disputed elections in Kenya garnered international interest, East and Central Africa’s most syndicated cartoonist, Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado), has been living in conflict since his career began.
“Editorial cartooning is a confrontation art, so a cartoonist is always in conflict with either the authorities or the society at large,” said Gado during the public lecture “Cartooning in Conflict: Can Cartoons Help Bring Peace to the Political Crisis in Kenya” in February.
Sponsored by The Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning, Gado’s visit was a continuation of the “Cartooning for Peace” forum held at Emory in November. That week-long event featured 10 acclaimed cartoonists from around the world for a series of public panels, class visits and public lectures. More than 100 of their cartoons, including 17 from Gado, were on display at the Schatten Gallery.
Born in Tanzania, Gado works as a freelance cartoonist in Nairobi, Kenya. Although his work explores a wide range of topics from corruption and terrorism to deforestation and HIV/AIDS, his most recent cartoons offer commentary on the characters and issues surrounding the presidential elections.
During times of conflict, said Gado, it is critical that a cartoonist carefully examine the issues at hand before drawing a cartoon.
“As much as cartoonists want to arrogantly give their opinion, it is always a situation where you really have to weigh the issues, and consider to what extent do you consider them,” he noted. “[Cartooning] is not only a conflict of interest, but a conflict of my very existence.”
During his visit, Gado attended classes hosted by Emory professors where he spoke about his career as an editorial cartoonist, the political situation in East Africa, censorship, where to draw the line, and more.
A regular contributor to the Daily Nation, New African, Courier International, Business Day and Sunday Tribune, his work has also been published in Le Monde, Washington Times, Der Standard and Japan Times.
Gado joined the Ardhi Institute in Tanzania to study architecture in 1991, but left one year later to become the editorial cartoonist and illustrator of Nation Media Group, the largest media house in East and Central Africa. Gado has also published three books: “Abunuwasi,” a short story comic book and “Democrazy!” and “The End of An Error, and the “Beginning of a New One!,” both collections of his editorial cartoons.
The brainchild of Le Monde’s editorial cartoonist Plantu, “Cartooning for Peace” was first held at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 2006.