Africartoons – politics, anger and LOL

by Herman Manson (@marklives) Editorial cartoons remain a staple in our newspapers. Which should be worrying to cartoonists as said media continues its circulation slide and publishers keep cutting back on content. A small pool of cartoonists work for an even smaller pool of newspaper owners. You can see the possible disadvantages in such a set-up – especially for cartoonists (few places of employment in a declining environment). Editorial cartooning seems like a risky career proposition, overall, unless you are Zapiro.

One day one cartoonist, John Curtis, decided to bring together a collection of cartoons celebrating Nelson Mandela, and publish it online for his 90th birthday. Africartoons was born, and helped establish an informal network between the professional editorial cartoonists in the country, which Curtis says numbers around 30.

Today the website holds a substantial trove of South African cartoons numbering anywhere between 10 – 12 000, with between 200 and 350 cartoons added every month. That is out of a total of approximately 430 strips and cartoons published in SA newspapers each month. Apart from maintaining an important editorial archive, the site has helped open up the digital market to local cartoonists, gives them access to an audience beyond often regional newspapers, and allows for greater networking and collaboration between cartoonists.

It’s improved the business environment for cartoonists, who have become more aware of who holds the rights to their work (them, preferably), and offers an informal platform for support (like when paper The New Age, owned by the controversial Gupta family, dropped cartoonist Jerm, allegedly because his cartoons were not “aligned with the paper’s vision and mission.”)

It also allowed quite a few editorial cartoonists to pop out of the woodwork. While Zapiro remains the most influential cartoonist in the country (and one of the most influential cartoonists in the world today) it has certainly helped raise the profile of other cartoonists as well.

The site has to date been funded by Curtis, who, alongside fellow cartoonist Dr Jack, was recently signed by City Press to produce editorial cartoons as DR JACK & CURTIS for the paper. Curtis had originally used the design studio founded by him and his wife Michelle, digitalJUNGLE, to build and maintain the site, but the agency had scaled back after Michelle’s second pregnancy, so for the moment Curtis is managing most aspects of the site.

Jerm: neither left-wing nor right-wing but the middle-finger

by Herman Manson (@marklives) When the cup is half full, its hard being a satirist, as Jeremy Nell, who works under the name Jerm, found out.

Nell, until recently the cartoonist for The New Age, had his contract terminated by editor Moegsien Williams because, says Nell, his political cartoons were, according to Williams at least, not “aligned with the paper’s vision and mission.”

The New Age, funded by the politically connected Gupta family, launched “to focus on the positive side of news,” according to its own website, and this has been construed by critics as being pro-government. Williams is the paper’s fourth editor in two years.

Nell says initially news of his effective firing from The New Age didn’t generate much attention from mainstream media (there was quite a bit of outrage in social media circles) until Zapiro took up his cause in a cartoon that takes the mickey out of the New Age editors.

Justin Bieber in a penis suit just another day in the office for ZANews

by Herman Manson (@marklives) I’m trying to figure out what the two, ahem, balls attached to the front of the fluffy pink bunny suit could possibly indicate.

“Oh – that was for our Halloween edition. It’s a penis and we put Justin Bieber in it,” says a voice from somewhere to my right.

I’m in the costume room of the only in show in SA that would feature a giant penis sporting the Bieber’s face on air – or as the ZANews website puts it ” the only news show more ghastly than the SABC.” It’s ZANews producer Thierry Cassuto and his teams’ literal take on the boy-man as an over-exposed sex symbol.

ZANews is the satirical puppet show produced online and for TopTV by Cassuto and his team. Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) is a business partner in the venture. The day before this interview ZANews won the ‘Best Editorial Team’ category, amongst others, at the digital industry award show the Bookmarks Awards.

Cartoonist vs. President

Last week, Jacob Zuma obtained a court date for his defamation lawsuit against Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, thus paving the way for history’s first civil court battle between a president and a cartoonist. Carlos Amato spoke to Zapiro, whose 16th annual collection, The Last Sushi, hits the streets this month. Interview by Carlos Amato, illustration by Zapiro

Journalists’ Association backs Zapiro in Muhammad cartoon controversy

The Professional Journalists’ Association supports the court ruling, made late last night, that has allowed the Mail & Guardian to publish a cartoon, drawn by Jonathan Shapiro/Zapiro, depicting Mohammed in today’s edition.

Zapiro show seeks new platform online

The producers of Z News, a news satire co-developed by award winning South African cartoonist Zapiro, is seeking alternative distribution channels after the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) pulled the plug on the show before the pilot even aired. The SABC reportedly spent close to R1 million on development before the show got canned. Zapiro is often criticised by senior government figures for his politically inconvenient views of Zuma and other members of the ANC leadership.

But has Zapiro gone far enough?

Zapiro asks how far will Zuma and his allies go in undermining our legal system for self gain and then suggests the answer. It is a legitimate if shocking comment on the current state of power politics in the country.

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