Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Parodying society’s most serious issues

Posted by Kimberly on November 16, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
November 16, 2007 (927 words)

The moment that forever changed the life of Antonio Antunes occurred during the Montreal Cartoon saloon in 1983.

The now multi-award winning Portuguese cartoonist had won the Grand Prize for his 1982 cartoon on Lebanon, where he turned the famous boy from the Warsaw ghetto into a kaffiyehed, or turbaned, Palestinian, showing off his sense of irony.

“It was to call for the attention towards the massacre of Shatila,” said Antonio, referring to the deaths of between 800 and 1,000 old men, women and children near Beirut, Lebanon.

Antonio turned it into a remarkable criticism on the invasion, replacing Israeli soldiers with the Germans and Lebanese in the place of the Jewish.

This sort of no-holds-barred style of artistic expression can be seen throughout Antonio’s illustrious career and has culminated in his current bust interpretations of national political personalities and others such as Portugal’s famous poet Luis Vaz de Camoes and Sigmund Freud.

Asked whether he still derives pleasure from his work after a career that spans more than thirty years, the 54-year-old said, “it’s a different kind of pleasure, not the same as when I started, not the same fascination or involvement.

“I make less cartoons now and it takes more time, so it was like an explosion at the beginning,” he said.

In the beginning, it was more about winning those prizes, but now it’s a pleasure-making task using his know-how, he explained, adding that he preferred to invest in developing talent.

Of course the issue of the Muhammad cartoons came up during discussion, to which he responded that it was an unreal issue, that twelve drawings could actually cause 18 deaths.

“It’s medieval and makes no sense,” he said, adding that the European government did not respond with the clarity that was expected.

“Freedom of press is a value everyone has in our political system.”

The Muhammad cartoon caricatures had included drawings of Muhammad wearing a head-dress shaped like a bomb, while another shows him saying that paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers.

Coming back to Antonio’s own work, his involvement with the cartoon world has culminated in an exhibition called World Press Cartoon where he is the director and president of the jury and which is showing at Casa Garden from today, having been organised by the Orient Foundation, a Macau cultural institution.

David Levine is seen as one of the greatest references to the world of editorial cartoon, and is also the Honorary President of the World Press Cartoon.

Antonio recalls visiting Levine, “suddenly in one day he wasn’t a guy on a a poster but someone I’d met” whereby Levine showed him a cartoon of Durao Barroso, current President of the European Commission that had been published by Antonio in an anthology of cartoons.

“He asked me if I’d had any problems publishing it, which I hadn’t. He added that he’d had problems publishing a cartoon of Paul Wolfowitz, [ex-President of the World Bank].

“I was surprised that Levine, being so famous, could still be unable to publish something, even in a less conservative environment,” said Antonio, adding that “cartoons allow people to debate society.

“I have never been censored. Maybe after I have published I get some judgements from the public,” he said.

And those judgements were never more to the forefront than after he published his cartoon on depicting the Pope John Paul II with a condom on his nose in 1992.

The cartoon had worldwide repercussions, some accusing the artist, while others supported him.

His involvement therefore, in the World Press exhibitions, have seen them take flight. While the 2006 exhibition saw it take a global perspective by touring internationally, this year’s has seen an increase in contestants, something Antonio expects to be the case as each year goes by.

To begin with, the exhibition had been held in Sintra, but then travelled to Macau and other parts of the world, something that is being encouraged with new destinations.

This year, destinations considered were Spain, Belgium, Argentina, Mozambique and South Africa.

As well, this year saw a restriction in submitted cartoons to one work per category to give an opportunity to more authors, publications and countries.

A total of 832 works were entered by 390 cartoonists, representing 311 publications in 62 different countries. As part of the exhibition itself and subsequent catalogue, 403 work by 286 cartoonists in 277 publications from 57 countries were chosen.

As well, another 11 new countries entered into the contest including Japan, Switzerland, Algeria, Tanzania and Kazakhstan.

The World Press Cartoon is only open to professional cartoonists whose works are published in the press, with the awards designed to honour not only the creators, but also the publications that publish them.

Contestants are required to submit, along with the illustration, proof of publication in the form of an original of the entire page displaying the published work, with the date clearly visible.

The winners were separated into the Grand Prize as well as three categories: editorial cartoon, gag cartoon and caricature.

There are three winners as well as an honourable mention within each category. The caricature of Putin as a bear by Swedish cartoonist Riber Hansson, won the Grand Prize with a monetary value of 20,000 Euros, while first, second and third prizes ranged from 5,000, 2,500 and 1,000 Euros respectively.

The Grand Prix winning work was chosen from the three first-prise winners in each category.

The exhibition will continue to be displayed at Casa Garden, which is right next door to Camoes Gardens, until December 31.

 

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