The Freedom of Expression in Broad Strokes exhibit showcases the winners of the international cartoon competition by displaying the artworks on a series of free-standing pillars. The thematically arranged exhibition was assembled by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom. It celebrates cartoonists who have wielded their pens as weapons against censorship, oppression and controversy over the last 15 years.
The importance of free thinking and mark-making extends beyond the competition, as Chinese cartoonist Run Tang Li illustrates. Run’s cartoon shows two ominous shadows with curled horns standing over a caveman who draws hunters and beasts in white space. With basic forms and implied figures, it illustrates the basic human need to express oneself, the persistent threats to free expression and the immortality of art forms.
In contemporary times, the markmaker is still threatened – but the horned beast has been replaced by encroaching intolerance.
This is especially evident in Roger Hogan’s cartoon, The Artist Pays Dearly For His Pursuit of Freedom of Expression, where a cartoonist is in stocks, having penned the words “freedom of expression”. It depicts the persecution of Kurt Westergaard after the publication of his cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban. Two attempts were made on Westergaard’s life after it appeared.
Unfortunately, the cartoons’ display falls short in emphasising the contextual aspect of satirical art. The pillars displaying the cartoons also undermine the exhibit’s impact, as viewers have to wind and wander around the peculiar arrangement instead of appreciating the international progress made in political cartooning. Structure and context are implied in the same way that the threatening figure is indirectly illustrated – a shadow without form, an outline without detail.
In essence, the exhibition celebrates the cartoonists who stand as satirical soldiers, wielding their weapons of wit in the battle for freedom of expression. If you are interested in comedy, comics, art, politics, power, or the world in which you live, take the time to commemorate the soldiers who are fighting for your rights.
Eden Grove Complex,
Sarah Rose de Villiers
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