This interview of Carlos Latuff and I was published yesterday in the Turkish newspaper Zaman (*).
Here is the online version in Turkish. And below are the answers I gave in English:
– Could you please tell us some info about yourself?
– I’m a 25 year old Belgian political artist. I live and work in Brussels. Iwas born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and lived there 7 years. I’m also a full time teacher.
– When and how did the idea of supporting Palestine with graphics and cartoons begin?
– I had a very fascinating teacher on Middle East affairs when I was studying Journalism. I first got interested in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict thanks to him.
– What are your sources of inspiration? How does the idea come to your mind?
– News and opinion articles are important sources of inspiration for me. When I want to draw on a specific issue, I try to read significant texts about it.
– How would you describe your graphic work?
– I would call my current creations “ political cartoons” or “conceptual illustrations”. I’ve also made political paintings and photomontages.
– You are standing against Imperialism & Zionism, How do people react towards your artworks in your own country and in Middle East? What’s the feedback you always get?
– My graphic works on Israel/Palestine have been censored many times in my own country. I receive much more positive feedbacks from Arab people, which is comforting.
– Having these political convictions and actions, have you ever been threatened? And by who?
– I have received several nasty emails; it usually comes from individuals who don’t share my political opinions. I can’t do anything about it. I must continue to be prolific, use my freedom of expression and my critical sense.
– Your political illustrations can already be found all over the internet, what is the power of art in politics?
– Art gives timelessness to temporal facts. In my view, this is what scares most political leaders. Every political illustration I make is like a little snapshot of a certain moment in a certain place that gives a judgment and an interpretation to historical events.
– What do you think about freedom of speech, do you think its fair when it comes to talk about Zionism?
– I’m a partisan of a boundless, responsible and conscientious freedom of expression, even when it deals with Zionism. Zionism has become a dangerous political movement that must be treated with a most critical eye.
– From your point of view, how does the Middle East, especially Turkey, look like?
– I think Turkey is a wonderful country with an amazing cultural importance and social wealth. I have many Turkish friends. I can’t wait to see it becoming a European State. Europe needs Turkey.
– These days, Israel is committing a continuous massacre against Palestinians, and you have already reacted strongly towards these crimes with your artworks. How could you express your opinion regarding these crimes, as
a normal human being first, and then as an artist?
– I think the recent huge worldwide protests have clearly shown that hundreds of thousands human beings have been deeply shocked by Israel’s barbaric abuses in Gaza and Palestine. I do feel horrified and revolted
too in front of so many human rights infringements from Israel. Israel is more and more becoming a terrorist State. This is unacceptable and must be denounced. The oppressed people of yesterday are becoming nowadays oppressors and fascists.
– As a political graphic artist, I really believe it’s a duty for me to make creations relating to this and to condemn Israel’s tyranny in Palestine. In your opinion, when and how will Israel stop and withdraw from Gaza?
– I don’t have answers… The only thing I’m sure of is that we, artists and world’s citizens, must continue to denounce Israel’s imperialism and violence against Palestinians. One day, I hope, Palestine will be free and independent with peaceful neighbours as well.
– When you are making a new political artwork or cartoon, how do you feel? Does your pen suffer from so much painful drawings? How can you handle your own pain?
– Yes, it is very painful, I wish I could rather draw and paint flowers all the time. But I would then be guilty to remain silent to the current intolerable Israeli aggression and brutality. I’m getting used to that feeling. This is part of my work.
– From your point of view, what is the most powerful cartoon you have ever drawn? Which incident since the
beginning of the Gaza’s war has affected you the most?
– I think my recent cartoon titled “Something Wrong” is a strong one. It shows the non proportional force of the
protagonists. Both are suffering from the same thing. The consequences for Palestinian civilians and innocents are real, much harsher and more dramatic, while the blind, rich and powerful Israeli citizens and leaders, who keep blaming Hamas, are completely protected and endure mainly a psychological disturbance.
– I have been deeply affected and shocked by the power cuts (caused by the Israeli army) in most of the hospitals in Gaza while there are more and more injured people. Is there a difference drawing funny cartoons, and painful political ones?
– I think funny cartoons and dramatic illustrations have different purposes and different publics.
– Do you know other artists drawing for Palestine? Do you co-operate or correspond with them?
– Yes I know several political artists involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The names I have in mind are Carlos Latuff, David Baldinger, Abonoon, Khalil Bendib. I communicate frequently with them.
Zaman: Zaman is a right-wing, pro-Islamist, Turkish daily newspaper. It was founded in 1986 and was the first Turkish daily to go online in 1995. It contains national (Turkish), international, business and other news. It also has many regular columnists who cover current affairs, interviews and a culture section.
Zaman is an Istanbul-based daily paper that also prints special international editions for some other countries. In addition to four locations in Turkey, regional editions are printed and distributed in Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, Kazakhstan, Kyrghizistan, Macedonia, Turkmenistan, and the US. Zaman bureaus and correspondents are located in major world capitals and cities like Washington DC, New York, Brussels, Moscow, Cairo, Baku, Frankfurt, Ashgabat, Tashkent, and Bucharest.
Special international editions are distributed in the native alphabets and languages of the countries they are published. Zaman has Kyrgyz, Romanian, Bulgarian, Azeri, Uzbek, Turkmen etc. editions.
Zaman headquarters in Istanbul is supported by news bureaus in Ashgabat, Baku, Brussels, Bucharest, Frankfurt, Moscow, New York, and Washington, DC. Zaman also appears to have a large network of foreign journalists, especially in Russia and Central Asia.
Originally also having an English-language edition, since January 16, 2007, that role has been taken over by the newly-launched English-language daily newspaper Today’s Zaman.
Its circulation is about 890.000, highest in Turkey as of 2008. The weekly circulation of Zaman was verified by an independent Media Auditing company, BPA Worldwide, after accusations that the newspaper is being handed out freely to gain market share. The audition report was released to public in March 2007. However, it should also be noted that, circulation is defined as the number of copies distributed on an average day and it doesn’t distinguish between the number of newspapers sold or given away.
Zaman has been awarded several times for its design, including Society for News Design.
PS: Many thanks to Adem for taking and sending to me photos of the printed interview