Saad Hajo. Colour your own country!

What do you do when you live in a regime where you are silenced?

You start your own revolution. Art becomes your weapon. Cartoons. Political satires. There is much to tell in one single drawing. They give the world something which exceeds reality. Satires make you reflect, think, and even laugh. A Revolution of Cartoons has just landed in Amsterdam. Be sure to join them!

“Cartooning Syria” is a unique exhibition showing the work of 28 cartoonists from Syria. Saad, Sahar and Mwafaq are in Amsterdam to join the show and talk about their work. The exhibition took place in gallery Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam May 2017 and is still travelling the world. “Cartooning Syria’ is also available in book form and sold in book stores.

Guests in the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy: 3rd to 7th of May 2017

Saad Hajo ( 1968) : Cartoonist several media, owner 24.ae, organiser cartoon exhibitions.
Sahar Burhan (1967) : Cartoonist & Columnist / Owner Galleri Kameleont
Mwafaq Katt ( 1955) : Cartoonist and Animation film maker
Initiator: Ronald Bos

Saad Hajo. 2006

In 2006 Bashar Al-Assad broke with his vice president Abduhalim Khaddam and expelled him. During that time it was forbidden to draw Bashar Assad as a caricature.

Kim: Can you tell me about your background and how you started to use cartoons as your way of expression?

Sahar: Both Saad and I studied Art in Damascus, direction painting. We graduated in 1989.

Mwafaq: I studied animation film making in Moscow for seven years. I made the first animation film in Syria.

Saad: The first and the last!:) 

Saad: I made my first “political” drawing when I was 14. At the time you had three government-owned newspapers in Syria, and three cartoonists. The media was already censured. My first published drawing was in a magazine in Lebanon, when I was sixteen. A famous poet from Egypt chose my drawing when he came to visit me in Syria. The magazine was soon prohibited by the Syrian regime. During my studies I made one cartoon per month for the cover of a magazine in Lebanon. After this job I realised this is the right path, being a cartoonist. Mwafaq gave me my first cartoon book, when he heard about my publication. I moved to Lebanon in 1993, where I started to work. It has been twenty years now that I am making two cartoons on a daily base.  In 2005 we ( Sahar and I ) moved to Sweden and I started working for Folksbladet. I still work for them.

Mohammed Seyda

Mwafaq: I worked as a cartoonist for the Moscow Times during my studies. My last years in Syria I worked for Syrian tv , head of animation from 2009-2011 and I was a professor in animation, illustration an visual arts at the University of Kalamoon and other universities.

Saad: I recently left the newspaper from Lebanon, Beiroet, As-safir, as I could not find myself in the newspaper’s new strategy. I had to change my style as well as my mentality. In the same year I was approached by a group of journalists based in Abu Dhabi, if I could help develop a new online platform for cartoonists, 24.ae, which I run now. Amongst them are Sahar and Mwafaq.

Sahar Burhan

Kim: Where do you call home?

Mwafaq: Toronto, Canada.

Sahar: The place where you meet likeminded people, who understand you. I found that place in Sweden, where I have many friends now. People are my home, people who read you, people who are interested in you.

Saad: I have an old home in Damascus, which I take with me everywhere,  but I could say that my cartoons feel as my home, not all art, in particular the humour in cartoons. I feel good when I live in this world.

Sahar Burhan

In which media do you publish?

Mwafaq: I publish in an Arab newspaper, alarab.uk.com,  based in London, one cartoon per day. Alarab is the oldest Arab newspaper in London, since 1973. I also publish in media like geroun.net and 24.ae, I publish my drawings on facebook. You can find my animation film “The 11th  Commandment” on youtube. It is made in 2010, before the revolution. My first film “A tale of Two nails” you can find via google. There is 37 years in between.

Sahar: I publish in a local newspaper in Sweden, called ETC, in Norrköping. I write a weekly column, called “krönikatur” guided by a cartoon, you will find me on facebook as well.

I am Swedish now, so my columns are in Swedish. My drawings are universal.

Saad: I publish at 24.ae, geroun.net, Folksbladet, al-modon.com, and several other media, also on facebook and Instagram ( saadhajo.se.)

Kim: You never published in Syria?

Saad: We never published in Syria before the revolution because it was impossible.

Mwafaq: I left Syria after the revolution in 2011. In Syria you can’t draw what you want. Do you know Ali Ferzat? He is probably the most famous Syrian Cartoonist. He was assaulted during the Syrian uprising, presumably by pro-regime gunmen. His fingers were heavily wounded. He lives in Kuwait now and started drawing again. Almost all Syrian cartoonists are living outside of Syria now.

Saad: He won the Prins Claus price.

Kim: Do you feel free to publish what you want (e.g. after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.)?

Sahar/Saad/Mwafaq: Yes.

Sahar: Yes, a magazine in Sweden called Galago ( comic magazine) called me to ask if I would like to make a drawing to comment on the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which I did.

Saad: When I was young I saw a cartoon of the dictator Hafez al-Assad ( father of Bashar al-Assad), made by a very famous Swedish cartoonist.  When I saw this cartoon I realised it was possible to make satirical cartoons about presidents. His name was EWK. Ewert Karlsson ( 1918-2004.)  In 2015 I received a price in his name. That was a great recognition, I was the first non-Swedish cartoonist to receive it.

Sahar: In Nörkopping in Sweden there is an Ewert Karlsson museum.

Saad: And thanks to Trump,  I have never had so much work as before! “

Exhibition ‘Cartooning Syria’ in exhibition space Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam.

Newspaper article:
https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2017/04/17/tekenaars-zonder-publiek


Animation films by Mwafaq Katt:
The 11th Commandment: https://vimeo.com/50391263

 

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