Art Alert: Exhibition of political cartoons by India's renowned artist

Ahram Online, Friday 11 Apr 2014

As part of the visual arts section of India by the Nile 2014, renowned Indian cartoonist Sudhir Tailang will present his works between 17 and 19 April at Cairo's Modern Arts Museum

Sudhir Tailang
Sudhir Tailang in his home in Delhi, 15 January 2014. (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

Sudhir Tailang is one of India's most renowned political cartoonists with daily cartoons published for over four decades in leading newspapers, including the Hindustan Times. A selection of Tailang's work will be displayed between 17 and 19 April at the Egyptian Modern Arts Museum located on the Cairo Opera House grounds.

The exhibition is part of India by the Nile, a multidisciplinary festival running between 1 and 20 April and aiming to bring India's variety of art forms to Egyptian audiences.

“A political cartoonist stands on the bridge between journalism and art,” he explains. “Maybe it’s even more journalism than art. People like cartoons due to their political content, not because it’s a drawing. I would say that the drawing part constitutes only 30 percent of the cartoon, while 70 percent lies in the idea behind it. Cartoon is exactly the opposite of the portrait. While the portrait makes the person beautiful, the cartoon underscores all the flaws and reveals the sins. And though one of the crucial personality characteristics expected from a political cartoonist is sense of humour, cartoons’ main aim is not to make people laugh. In fact, many cartoons are more tragic than comic, but hasn’t the line between tragedy and comedy always been very thin" Tailang commented to Ahram Online in an interview conducted back in January 2014.

Until the 1990s, India perceived cartooning as an important part of the country's social, political and creative environment. It is only more recently that Indian politicians, as well as owners of publishing houses, began to feel hostile when faced with cartoon criticism. India’s glory years, when Nehru laughed at himself and Indira Gandhi praised the work of cartoonists, are becoming history. Tailang, however, continues to challenge the new generation of what he coins as the "insecure politicians" and "holy cows" running the corporate-owned newspapers.

While Tailang’s cartoons persist to comment on the daily political events of India, he also reacts to major international news. Among Tailang's works are a few commentaries on the Egyptian revolution, particularly the 18 days in early 2011 which led to the removal of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Tailang's cartoons become a vivid testimony to the social and political changes of India, touch on international phenomena; as they poignantly criticise, they invariably leave a large margin for thoughtful reflection.

As such, Tailang's exhibition in Cairo is a unique opportunity for Egyptian audiences to become acquainted with this remarkable artist, as well as garner a better understanding of the art form and the dynamics governing it in India and the rest of the world.

Read Ahram Online's interview with Sudhir Tailang conducted in his home in Delhi, here. And check the complete programme of India by the Nile here.

Sudhir Tailang
Cartoons by Sudhir Tailang (Artwork courtesy Sudhir Tailang)

17-19 April
Aba’ad Gallery, Egyptian Modern Arts Museum, Cairo Opera House grounds
free entry

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