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Art Beyond Healing: Opinions of Political Cartoonists on Creating Visual Arts of Resistance

We could comfortably make art on the breeze and the sunshine, but making political art is not a choice but a responsibility.” says, political cartoonists

“I have no choice but to make political illustrations as the conditions demand so. I too wish to make beautiful things that make you experience scintillating bliss, but I get no inspiration for doing so from what I see around. The red colour of blood overshadows that of a rose, we can bear to see a lot of roses but not a lot of blood. And so I create political art” says Siddesh Gautam, a political cartoonist.

If you are one per cent political, you may find Siddesh’s cartoons coming in your Instagram explorer feed. Talking about his relationship with art and the idea of making art of resistance, Siddesh said, “during the times of the Roman Empire, the common people would express their dissent by making graffitis on the wall of the palaces and official buildings. Art has always played its part in the resistance. This is what Hitler understood and used for the benefit of Nazi propaganda. The establishment has been hiring artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, etc for their own agendas but the resistance has always been present and will always be present, till the human brain is free to think.”

Read more: 5 Songs by Modern Artists that strengthen the voice of dissent

Art is a way to express thoughts and emotions. Be its folk songs, protest poetry, dance, music, paintings, or cartoon making, they are being used to express the voices of resistance. An art that mirrors the society is a catalyst for a change, the step forward to Utopia, the society aspires to see. And if it is dystopic, it surely is more relevant as it is what reality is.

Another cartoonist, Nituparna, an Assam based Cartoonist tells us that he finds it as a kind of responsibility to make political cartoons. He says, “In my view, everything in our society is bound to be political. Being a citizen of a democratic nation, we do have some rights. Every common citizen has their own share of rights, requirements and sadly, they have to fight for it every single day. Their plight, the huge gap between what they deserve and what they get- all are actually related to politics.”

When asked about if he feels that his voice can add to the loud, roaring voices of dissent, or can stand against the propaganda and hate, he says, “my duty is to raise the voice on their behalf of who is right, through my cartoons off course and that’s why I draw cartoons in the pressing issues of the political arena. Cartoons are in fact the voice of the voiceless common people, who seek ways to revolt, ways to resist. Many a time, a simple cartoon, in the most simplistic way can bring out the pain, agony, and harsh reality of the society so vividly, that it can or has led to the initiation of protests or revolution. People use cartoons as their way to protest or revolt. This has even been widespread in this digital age, where social media acts as the media through which cartoons reach a higher audience and thus influences more people in joining their hands together on an issue needing resistance.”

Another Instagram cartoonist, who has recently taken a break from making political cartoons said, “it is a real struggle for me to make political cartoons without letting the facts affect you. A cartoonist needs to pay a lot of effort in just thinking about the issue, researching, processing and then creating sarcasm and humour around it. And, the more you read, the more darkness you see. It starts affecting mentally.”

On fear of Social Media Backlash on the political content 

No matter what art they create, if it is for the voice of resistance and for the people, it is likely to get hate. Both Nituparna and Siddesh vouched for it. Nituparna even shares the incident of 2019, when he created a cartoon against CAA, and the repercussion of it was that the member of BJP Yuva Morcha in Tinsukia and hate and death threats on social media.   Siddesh said, “that there has been no time when I or other cartoonists haven’t got hate. I spend good enough time to check such messages and comments and then delete them, but the bigger fact is that hate is natural, it will come anyway, and I have got nothing to lose. I just try to not let these slurs and hate affect my physical and mental health“.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.
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