Exhibition dedicated to Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat at Atelier du Caire

Menna Taher, Thursday 15 Sep 2011

Selection of work by award-winning cartoonist brutally beaten by Al-Assad's thugs

Bashar Al-Assad painting over the shadow of the state of emergency

Ever since the attack on Syrian cartoonist, Ali Ferzat, artists and cartoonists around the region have expressed their rage and solidarity through cartoons.

On 13 September, an exhibition opened in solidarity with the cartoonist featuring many of his own works as well as works by Egyptian artists condemning the Bashar Al-Assad regime and the brutal beating of Ali Ferzat by ‘Shabiha’ thugs, who broke both his hands.

The exhibition was held in association with the Museum of Caricature in Fayoum and the Egyptian Cartoonists Association.

Ferzat’s work in the exhibition is very interesting and covers a wide range of thematic topics. Newspaper clippings about him are also displayed as well as a picture of him in his hospital bed with kisses painted all around.

Ferzat’s work is subtle, mostly monochromic, and reflective as it discusses the themes of power structures in society, the oppression of the police state and the impotency of Arab governments.

One of Ferzat’s key inspirations is the contradictions of everyday life. In one cartoon, he depicts a man in a warplane throwing a bomb on a little child whilst his colleague asks him to throw it delicately.

Another cartoon shows a Syrian militant, standing beside a field of massacred corpses, showing his injured finger to a horrified official.

As a comment on power structures, one cartoon shows identical men placed in a row like a flight of stairs, (their heads take the shape of the sole of a shoe), while someone climbs these stairs.

What is also interesting about his caricatures is that most of them do not depict specific incidents and thus can be applied to different contexts.

In many cartoons he criticises intellectuals who work as a mouthpiece for the regime, like one depicting a figure of authority from behind with a typewriter planted in his head.

His cartoons also tap into philosophical issues, such as a cartoon inspired by a Chinese folk tale about a magic paint brush, in which an artist paints what looks like an army general and above him it says ‘totalitarian regimes’. When he completes the leg, it kicks him.

Also in the exhibition is a cartoon that was spread on Twitter after his hospitalisation, in which he gives the middle finger while lying in his hospital bed in a cast. The cartoon, despite its strong message, was denied by him.

Mohamed El-Sabagh from the Egyptian Cartoonists Association said the artists participating in the exhibition have made a large poster with signatures and good wishes to be sent to him.

However, despite the gesture by Egyptian cartoonists, the execution of the exhibition does not do his work justice. Printed papers of his cartoons are plastered on walls without thematic, chronological or even logical order.

Ferzat’s plight has stirred regional and international media attention and given the artist wider international recognition. This was due to the idiocy of the Syrian regime, which drove him to greater fame rather than suppress his artistic output, said Ferzat.

Ferzat has published his work in Syrian, Arabic and Western newspapers, including Le Monde in France, and won many national and international awards, including first prize at the Damascus Caricature Festival in 1980 and 1982, first prize at the Sophia International Festival in Bulgaria in 1987, and the Dutch Prince Claus Award in 2002.

The exhibition will be on-going for a week at the Atelier Du Caire, 2 Karim El-Dawla Street, Downtown Cairo.


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