Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"Neutrality is escapism"



Zunar closest to the camera with Fadi Abou Hassan, drawing in the street
in Malmö for Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
in which Zunar's situation was one of five cases
focused on. Malmö, December 10, 2015.

Neutrality is escapism, in the words of Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Haque).

- If we see someone being burgled, we do not react with a "Well, I am neutral" and that reaction is just as absurd when witnessing corruption.


Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.

The photos in this blog post were all taken by me on Amnesty International's action Skriv för Frihet (Write for Freedom), in which Zunar took part on Saturday in Malmö. His cartoons were exhibited on the street, while he was drawing outside for everyone to meet him and talk to him in person. His colleague Fadi Abou Hassan joined him on the day.

Zunar is facing trial for nine tweets, for which he has been charged separately and may lead to a total of 43 years of imprisonment if he is found guilty. The trial is set for January 27, 2016. He is in other words charged for exercising his right to free speech and while he has been charged for tweeting, it is an obvious attempt to silencing the cartoonist within him.

- as he said, there is no transparency in the Malaysian prison system. Once in, no one will know the situation of the inmate just as the prisoner is totally sealed off from the world outside.

"If a cartoonist is convicted to 43 years of imprisonment then what about other people?" with which Zunar declares his battle:

"We have to fight for others with the means we each possess. If you have a dog, it can bite the prime minister's leg. Everybody has courage, but not everyone has the motivation to light it up. If you come across a tiger in the jungle, then suddenly motivation is there and you act. Through cartoons I have some advantage. I am an activist, I have opportunity".


Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.
Not even the overwhelmingly bright Amnesty-yellow washes out the energy of the line,
on the contrary the yellow enhanced it.
Amnesty International's action Skriv för frihet (Write for Freedom)
Malmö, December 10, 2015.
Corruption is stealing the money of everyone: "We are the ones paying", as Zunar said in a talk two days before the street action in Malmö and from which all of the quotations in this post are stemming. He underlined, how he is not a political cartoonist: His are cartoons for the people or people's cartoons.

For the same reason Zunar has removed all copyright from his cartoons for anyone to go ahead and spread them further. Talent is a "responsibility, it is my contribution to you all".


"Laughter is the best protest; laugh at him when the Prime Minister Najib is serious, not when he makes a joke".

Zunar, December , 2015.


Above, Najib's wife has grabbed hold of his ear, since he is but her puppet. She is the actual person in power in Malaysia to a degree that the legal system is under threat. In Zunar's cartoons she seems to have gained more of a face lately; an angry, twisted one, but her gigantic hair has as always room for hiding a multitude of illegally collected sins. 

Her mega-carat ring and the tweeting police officer, concentrating on silencing a free-speaking Zunar - while ignoring the corruption going on - are by now symbols called for in every cartoon by his beholders. They complain, if those two are lacking. 



The composition is thought out on paper before heading for the canvas
A bit of nerves are at play, since it is drawing in public

The first penciled lines are laid out
Zunar told us of his artistic process, having a composition in mind before he begins drawing. Said composition consists of four elements:

1) Information on the subject at hand, which must be correct and exhaustive


2) The composition must have a stand, alluding Zunar's trademark motto, that he ought and must take a stand, since even his pen has one

3) Direction, the layout of the cartoon must be direct and clear, in which content and intention blend into one another

4) The joke. Of the four, Zunar emphasized how the joke must be in line with the stand, otherwise it is abandoned.


and the lines are inked in


Content and right are two separate things, according to Zunar. 

"When I do not agree with everything within a cartoon, such as certain ones in Charlie Hebdo, then that is my right being a Muslim not to agree with them, just as it is their right to draw this. I must accept the right of the cartoonist.

It is fine, if you are not happy with it, but do not use law or weapon against it. Nobody has a license to kill."

With which Zunar drew the rightful conclusion that he is facing the very same situation as the Charlie Hebdo-cartoonists. 

Both situations are illegal according to the law, and while it is easy to accuse someone of sedition, it is enough to say "you have broke the sedition act" to carry someone away; it is another matter before a judge, when the specific sedition must be defined.


Note the pencil lines underneath the ink: the inked ones are bolder,
taking sharper turns once there is an image underneath to go from.
It must be said that they were drawing on canvas,
next to impossible to work on with a pen


The finishing declaration
"I am a believer. Who will face the 43 years, me or the Prime Minister?

As long as we do not take a stand, we are supporting dictators all over the world.

I will not think about 43 years. That would be self-censorship, and if I should begin to draw apologetically, they would have won. I only think of now, of today.

They have one mission: They want me to stop".




It was heartwrenching taking leave of Zunar at the airport. He has every right to flee his country, but he chooses to be present in court and prove his case on behalf of every similar abuse of power. We shall of course follow what will take place, wishing him well on every step of the way.



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