Carlos Latuff gives a voice to the oppressed with his art
Ahram Online talks to the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, reflecting on Egypt's revolution and the Arab Spring shaking the whole of the Middle East
Ati Metwaly, Thursday 4 Aug 2011
Born in 1968 in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Latuff’s cartoons are well known to Egypt's youth. They serve as a distant support of an artist working from his desk in Brazil and often are placed on banners held in protests.
Latuff has never visited Egypt, yet his interest in the region started with Palestine and spread over many other countries in the Arab World. Latuff does not have a university degree yet for years works as a professional cartoonist. He is also interested in photography and video-making for documentary purposes. Ahram Online talks to Carlos Latuff, one of the biggest supporters of Egypt’s Revolution.
Ahram Online: You are Brazilian, with Lebanese ancestors. What made you interested in Egypt and the region?
Carlos Latuff: My grandfather was Lebanese, but my interest in Middle East has nothing to do with that. I believe in solidarity with people, worldwide. Do not believe in everything you read on Wikipedia as my entry, for example, is always vandalized by Zionists.
I was in the West Bank, Palestine in 1999, then in Jordan and Lebanon in 2009. I believe that especially the close contact with Palestinian reality triggered my interest in the whole Middle East. Sometimes I'm invited by various organizations to give lectures and participate in the events related to Palestine, yet I'm not affiliated or represent any group or movement. Yet, I must say, that sometimes I get personally involved in some causes, like Palestine, police brutality in Brazil, and now, the Egyptian Revolution.
AO: Yet you’ve never been to Egypt?
CL: I wish I could but now I could be arrested on the spot for my cartoons and opinions about SCAF. Probably they would say I'm a spy or something.
AO: You do not only comment on events taking place in Egypt, but you reflect the core spirit of the Egyptian Revolution. What are the sources of all your detailed awareness?
CL: It's called Internet! And of course without the help of thousands of Egyptian friends on Twitter I could never make accurate toons about Egypt. In fact, Twitter users in Egypt are always providing me with reports and opinions, and some news websites like yours.
AO: You do not speak Arabic?
CL: No, I speak Portuguese, English and some Spanish. My Arab friends help me with Arabic writing on my cartoons.
AO: You are a cartoonist and political activist through them.
CL: I make art for a change. I try to make my cartoons to serve the people's movements, as a loudspeaker for them, to give voice to the voiceless. I made several cartoons about military trials of civilians in Egypt, by request of activists, who need visibility to this problem. My goal is to put my art at the service of people. At the same time, some politicians seem to be living caricatures. Mubarak, Obama, Netanyahu. Natural born villains!
AO: So you also take requests?
CL: I'm always receiving requests from activists, local and worldwide, for making cartoons for specific topics and actions. About corruption in Malaysia, police brutality in Macedonia, and so on.
AO: Any attention to your work and recognition from Brazil or the international arena?
CL: Only world press has given some attention to my art, mainstream media in Brazil isn't interested, specially because of my criticism towards its role in Brazilian politics. I got some awards, but more important is to know my cartoons are being useful for popular movements all around the world, especially in the Middle East.
AO: Have you ever faced any threat from any authority opposing your cartoons?
CL: Censorship many times, pressure from pro-Israel organisations and individuals that are always labeling my Palestine/Israel cartoons as "anti-Semitic." I was arrested three times for making cartoons against police brutality in Brazil.
AO: What are your general thoughts about the Arab Spring and its future?
CL: Today nobody can predict anything about what will happen next in Middle East.
During the days of the January 25th protests it was easier for the ordinary people to recognise the enemy. After 30 years of a brutal dictatorship, Mubarak was the evil in person. After his fall, many people believed that Egypt would have democracy. But it is not achieved so far. Military trials of civilians, protesters and workers jailed by the hundreds, martyrs families assaulted by the army and police, censorship: it's pretty easy to realise that SCAF rule is far from being democratic. But since people see the military as heroes due to the past wars against Israel it's hard for the populace to see SCAF as enemy.
I trust Egyptian people though, and I'm sure people didn't fight and die for replacing Mubarak dictatorship with a military dictatorship. What Egypt wants and needs is a full democratic regime.
AO: And your message to Egyptians.
CL: I wish to tell Egyptians that my art is at their service, in order to promote their struggle and boost their morale. My art is their art. Happy Ramadan to all!
Carlos Latuff's artwork can be viewed at: