Cartoons

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The fiftieth anniversary is almost on us and civic minded companies with enough spare cash could be casting around, wondering how best they can record their pleasure and commitment.

I would like to direct their attention to cartoons. There was recently the first ever exhibition of cartoons which I may, by now. have missed. 

A pity as it was something that I welcomed whole-heartedly.  But I did find it mildly ironic that the exhibition was organised by a Government owned project with a guest speaker who is a major figure in the civil service.

No disrespect to him. By report, he did a decent enough job. But cartoonists and Governments are invariably uneasy bedfellows with the former taking regular unappreciated swipes at the latter.


It follows that the cartoonist can only exist outside Government when able to contribute his/her portrayal of the latest mishap in, what is so loosely termed, the free press.

No free press, no cartoonist. It follows that few cartoonists have emerged from the ranks of those who have worked for the Government owned media during the last fifty years. How could they have done so? Governments do not mock themselves.

It follows that prior to the launching of the Guardian and Mmegi in the mid-1980s, the country was unable to boast of a single cartoonist as, for so many years, it was unable to boast of a single artist of any sort.

There have been many watersheds in the last fifty years but I suggest that the arrival of the cartoonist was one which should now be noted, enjoyed and appreciated.

In this one instance, the newly arrived local cartoonist was a free soul of sorts - not, for once dependent on generous overseas funding but given licence by newspaper editors to express themselves about society in ways and on topics, social and political, which particularly appealed to them.

The beginnings were understandably cautious. I cannot remember President Masire being cartoonised, but since then the cartoonists have come into their own.

In the last few years, Isaac Kgosi, Kgosi Kgafela and the President, as head of Government, have been a cartoonists delight, the latter two being of course, instantly recognisable by virtue of distinguishing features which have been seized on by the cartoonist. 

The same, however, has not been true of other public personalities. When they have to be named in the cartoon it has been obvious that the artist  has completely failed to make his/her point.

By the way are there any female cartoonists? Off hand, I think of the ex-Vice President, Rre Kedikilwe as someone who cartoonists found difficult to portray and it may be that the new Vice President is, for the moment, at least, in the same category.

 But back to that book because the last few years have seen many really stunning cartoons which have been hard hitting, biting, whimsical, affectionate (why not?), amusing, perceptive, insightful - chose your own adjectives. 

As with great art, great cartoons are timeless and can be enjoyed year after year. We now need this book. Who has the cash which would enable it  to be published?

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