Ahmed Ibrahim Hegazy, who passed away on Friday, was one of the leading Egyptian political cartoonists from the late fifties until the mid-eighties, when, in frustration at deteriorating conditions in the country, he retired and returned to his native village of Tanta to draw children’s cartoons.
Hegazy was born in Alexandria in 1936 and lived the early years of his life in Tanta. He was the son of a railway operator and had 11 siblings. Some of his first encounters with life were through his father’s stories at the railway station. “He was quiet like me, but sometimes he used to talk to me about the injustices he suffered,” he once said of his father.
He became known through his strip Tanablet Al-Soltan (Court Jester), a comic series that follows three young boys who find different ways to connive and steal their way to becoming big players in the Egyptian economy before running away with their ill-gotten fortune. Interestingly, the ending of the series was changed by the publishing house Dar El-Helal during Sadat's rule.
Hegazy studied at the Fine Arts Univeristy and worked as a cartoonist at Rose El-Youssef magazine from 1956. There he met artists such as Salah Jaheen, Bahgat Osman, Salah El-Leithy and George Bahgoury as well as writers and poets Salah Abdel Sabbour, Youssef Idris, Ihsan Abdel Koudous and Ahmed Abdel Moaty Hegazy, a group that Bahgat Osman labelled the civil wing of the 1952 revolution.
He also worked in Sabah El-Kheir (Good Morning) magazine, whose slogan was “The magazine of young hearts and liberated minds”. In the magazine, he had a strip titled Dahekat Manzelya (Domestic laughter), which relays situations in poor households that have many children.
He also worked for the Emirati comic magazine Maged, for which he received the Arab Journalists’ award. However, he never applied for any competitions and stayed away from media attention.
Later in life, he turned to children’s drawings, a move also taken by other contemporaries such as Mohie El-Din El-Labad and Bahgat Osman.
His cartoons were simple, focused on the contradictions of everyday life, and portrayed reality without too much exaggeration. In his book Rogak Al Selah (The Comrades of the Weapon), Bahgat Osman wrote that Hegazy’s works are the definition of ultimate simplicity in idea and style.
His works were the subject of many academic studies and he is considered one of the most important Egyptian cartoonists of his era.
The critic and poet Mohamed Boghdady documented Hegazy's work in his book Fanan El-Hara El-Masreya (The Artists of the Egyptian Alley).