Monday, 11th December 2023

Cartoons and the dialectics of criticisms

By Bobson Gbinije
07 September 2023   |   3:36 am
A cartoon is a drawing, sketch or comic strip in a book, newspaper or magazine. It incarnates humor, satire, parody, lampoon, mockery, critical political, socio-economic commentaries calculated to inform, educate and entertain.


A cartoon is a drawing, sketch or comic strip in a book, newspaper or magazine. It incarnates humor, satire, parody, lampoon, mockery, critical political, socio-economic commentaries calculated to inform, educate and entertain. Cartoons can also be animated. It is the master of masqueraded and camouflaged criticism. It encapsulates in brevity what would have been the voluminous submissions of other writers, critics and commentators.

In contemporary times, cartoons have grown to become a masterful art form in the genre of sculpture, painting and architecture. It dates back to 30,000 B.C. which is vastly earlier than the first written record, and means that the greater part of cartoon history is in fact pre-historic. It was during the pre-historic period that virtually all the major artistic media evolved, including drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and arguably, architecture.

The multi-culturalisms and civilisations that flourished along the great river valleys of the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates from Anatolia (present day Turkey), through Syria into Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) to Persia (present day Iran) cardinally enhanced the growth and development of cartoons as a medium of information dissemination and expression of thought.

The cartoons of ancient Greece and Rome were characterised by a sense of proportion, harmony and balance. Since the renaissance, the classical age and the age of enlightenment, the Muslims and Christian cartoons have served as catalyst for the development of existing Byzantine, Persian and later Indian styles. India’s earliest civilization flourished in the Indus valley between (2300.1700bc) and was centered on the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.

China is the longest surviving civilisation in the world, with a cartoon history stretching back to 4000 years. Because it was the most advanced country in eastern Asia, China influenced many of its neighbours and later the Islamic world and part of Western Europe. The distinctiveness of Chinese cartoons has been complemented by very high technical skills for frescos, tapestries and mosaic.

The history of cartoons in Africa is younger because of the inability to preserve cartoon works. But the art of sculpture is thought to date back 600 years. It is believed that the great western artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was greatly influenced by African sculpture, believing it to be free of the constraints of naturalism or realism. But the Bushman (san) rock art of South Africa and Namibia, the Nok culture of northern Nigeria, the sculptural works of Ife (AD1160-1600), the Benin kingdom works (1,500-1700), bronzes and terra cotta art forms showcased the symbolism, expressionism, impressionism and beauty etc in the African art. Cartoons were prevalent but not like in other civilizations.

But in contemporary times cartoons have become very prominent. In most Nigerian newspapers cartoons have become regular features. So much so that, most newspapers devote as much as two pages to cartoons at weekends and have become daily features. In the days of consummate despots like Idi Amin Dada, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Sanni Abacha, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler, cartoonists hid their critical comments inside the characters of their cartoon expressions.

Their works were subjected to convoluted and chameleonic interpretations. Indeed, cartoons grew from then to become the most formidable means of expression and the most veritable weapons in the armoury of critics. They are indeed, cryptogramised hieroglyphics for furtively putting out criticisms across to the public. We wish to admonish our cartoonists and moguls of the newspaper industry that more space should be devoted to cartoons in our newspapers. We want to see more creative cartoon works.

Nigeria has the commercial space where solely cartoon magazines can flourish. Nigerians lose their reading habits after graduating from university, seeing the certificate, as an end in itself. But when cartoons are incisive and didactic, they rekindle the art of reading. Let us use cartoons to invite Nigerians back to their books.

We also want to see an association of cartoonists in Nigeria (ACN). This is to ensure that an arrowhead is formed for an ironclad attack on problems confronting them in the practice of their trade. Let cartoonists help to deconstruct the high level of cynicism in Nigeria and declare an outright war against bad political leadership and corruption. Hence, the art critic/critique Julian Barnes posited that, “The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature; only then can he see clearly”. Let us see locally made animated cartoons for our children and not the hybridised western theatrics called Tom and Jerry, Flintstones, Spacetoon and Ramjo Ramjet etc

Finally, the world is now saturated with negative stories of wars, Hiv-Aids, COVID-19, poverty, death, natural disasters terrorism and oppression.

We are looking for a dramatic tilt that will tell the stories, with a humane diction and style, superimposed in the spirituality of the soul. And it is only cartoons and cartoonists that can jumpstart a new sociology of hope for a despondent collectivity. In a world where the spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as politicians, leaders and intellectuals, the cartoonists must come to our rescue through the sociology of cartoons.

Gbinije is of Mandate Against Poverty (Map), Sapele.