Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat's work will be on display July 2-18 at The Guardian, 60 Farringdon Road, London. In 1996, I had the great pleasure of meeting Ali Ferzat in San Francisco. The cartoon he drew and inscribed to me is one of my prize possessions.
Ferzat's work is part of an exibit Lighting lamps: Cartoons from the Middle East sponsored by the British Council's Media in Society project and the Guardian Foundation. The work of cartoonists from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Syria will be featured. Admission to the exhibit is free, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 to 4 Saturday. For more information telephone 020 7886 9898 or visit the Guardian website or email email@example.com.
Ali Ferzat began publishing Ad-Domari (The Lamplighter) in 2001, a satirical newspaper heralded as the first independent publication in Syria since 1963. His award-winning work has appeared for 35 years in major Arab newspapers, as well as Le Monde and other international publications. Since 1980, Ferzat has served as the head of the Society of Arab Cartoonists.
From The Guardian June 30:
"It could be an airport security check or a border crossing and the subject could be anyone — a heavily-moustachioed everyman patiently opening his suitcase for inspection while an armed, elaborately-uniformed guard peers instead deep into the traveller's brain, which is hinged open absurdly across his bowed head.
"The image is a universal one but it has a special resonance across the Arab world. Its creator, Syrian Ali Ferzat, is the doyen of Arab cartoonists, justly famed for highlighting the absurdities, miseries and injustices of daily life. And the drawing's the thing: no words or captions are necessary to make his point.
"Ferzat, one of the stars of Lighting Lamps, a new exhibition at the Guardian's Newsroom, has produced thousands of silent cartoons that speak volumes by lampooning corrupt leaders, torture, venality and oppression — yet (with some gaps) has still managed to carry on working in a political environment where creativity, wit and strongly-held views do not always sit happily together.
"Other cartoonists from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia may be blunter. But all tiptoe to some degree around the sensitivities of regimes which will tolerate mild criticism of social and economic issues — and hostility to Israel and America — but do not hesitate to censor and punish when domestic taboos are tackled.
"Lighting Lamps grew out of the British Council's four-year Media in Society project, designed to improve "the effectiveness of the media in raising awareness of key social issues" in six Arab countries. Iraq was unable to take part because of the security situation. The exhibition will go on tour in North Africa and Middle East later in the year."
Ferzat's cartoon depicting airport security looking inside a man's head reflects an Arabic expression meaning that someone who doesn't think for himself has "an empty head."
Ferzat's cartoon featuring animals watching in horror as humans kill each other is an enhanced version of one published here.