Stakeholders canvass better cartooning in the media
In a bid to revitalise the art of cartooning in the Nigerian media, the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) recently launched ‘Art of the Cartoon: Imaging Social Realities’ programme to promote and encourage the sector. According to stakeholders present, media owners have always neglected the issues of cartooning, as cartoonists have been driven more or less to the background in the newsroom, in terms of recognition and remunerations.
Professor of mass communication at Lagos State University School of Communication, Lai Oso, who represented Prof. Wole Soyinka, said the launch of the programme would help to develop the capacity of reporters in the genre, by stimulating the culture of satirical, investigative and humorous cartooning.
Oso, four-time chair of judges of Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting, noted, “In visual terms, the quality of investigation is low while there is an over-dependence on hand-out news, images or organised events at the expense of self-generated stories.
“Cartooning is all about wit and humour, between features and investigative journalism. We do acknowledge that it is difficult to make people laugh in today’s Nigeria, and you are either talented or not.”
Oso lamented the scarcity of well-grounded satirists and the appreciation of the tool of cartooning as a veritable tool for imaging social realities in pungent manner, saying, “Political cartooning has an important place in our bid to achieve the correct imaging of social realities. A number of editorial cartoons have done justice to the discourse of politics and its attendant corruption in Nigeria.”
The centre’s Coordinator, Motunrayo Alaka, gave a preliminary chart of a one-month survey of seven national newspapers comprising The Guardian, The Punch, Vanguard, ThisDay, BusinessDay, New Telegraph and Daily Trust. The report, which shows trends in cartooning in Nigeria, also reveals gaps in the genre, such as poor satiric depths, lack of use of cartoons by online media platforms, lack of cartoonists on social media and scarcity of female cartoonists among others.
Cartoonist and lecturer at the University of Lagos, Mr. Akin Onipede, who was a panel discussant at the event, said it was sad that most media outfits fail to maximise the potentials of cartooning, which has the capacity to shape society. According to him, “Cartooning is an endangered profession, which is not taught in school; cartoonists are poorly remunerated in Nigeria and some media houses, as we speak, are owing cartoonists aside relegating them to the background of the newsroom.”
Professor of English and Chair of WSCIJ, Ropo Sekoni, said there was need to ensure that cartoonists thrive in their trade. “Students are not given the needed political literacy that would make them appreciate the art of cartooning; school’s curriculums are overloaded and yet the subject is overlooked; it simply eludes everyone,” he noted.
A senior cartoonist at BusinessDay, Mike Asukwo, who was also in the panel, said his passion for cartooning was borne out of the need to impact society positively through satirical imaging. He urged cartoonists to repackage their works, think outside the box and get their works published through different means.
Earlier in a video clip, Professor Soyinka said images were often more powerful than words. Recalling how cartoonists played an active role during the fight against military rule in Nigeria, when other genres had been muffled by dictatorship, he said, “the very witty and sometimes in-your-face caricatures, ladled with humour punctured the affiliates of power. It is very difficult to prove a case against the cartoonists.”
Former editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, who represented Wole Soyinka Foundation, advised cartoonists not to be on sidelines in the newsroom. He advised them to attend editorial meetings and aspire to the highest position in the newsroom.