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Revolutionary Cartoons: An Interview With Ahmad Nady

[Ahmad Nady Drawing in Tahrir Square. Image from Artist] [Ahmad Nady Drawing in Tahrir Square. Image from Artist]

[The January 25th Revolution in Egypt brought to the fore the artistic talents of many of the youth who participated in the sit-ins and demonstrations of Tahrir Square. This is the first installment of a series of short interviews with the artists of the Egyptian revolution. Samples of Nady's work appear below the interview.]

Ahmad Nady, a comics artist and cartoonist who studies at the College of Arts, came to be known through his work in two of the most famous children’s/teens’ magazines in the Arab world, Majid and Basim. He also worked for Al-`Arabi Al- Saghir magazine and the Arabic version of Sesame Street. As he developed his style he won three Daily Deviations awards from Deviant Art for three consecutive years (2005 to 2007). In addition to his art work he was also politically active politically . He participated in the April 6 movement and the pro-Baradi`i popular campaign (which he later left). Nady joined the revolution from the very beginning where he participated politically and artistically in Tahrir Square. The following is a short interview we had with him:

Eman Morsi: Tell us about your participation in Tahrir Square?

Ahmad Nady: I was in Tahrir Square from the first day of the demonstrations and I got injured with a rubber bullet in my leg in the violent events of January 28th. However, I didn’t return home until Feb 2nd. At that time many of the “Popular Committees” were suspicious of people coming back from the square thanks to the local media. So, in addition to my injury, I was beaten up by several of these committee members on my way home and this really affected me emotionally, it was a great offense. Other than that, when I returned to Tahrir Square we had a lot of time sitting and waiting there so I started drawing. This attracted people who gathered to look at what I was doing with interest. So I started brainstorming with them and then I would pick the idea I like and develop it and draw it. At other times I would draw a cartoon and ask the people to suggest comments and then I would write the best comment. Then I would ask people to clap and all this made of it a fun show. Outside the square I also started posting political articles and begin discussions of political issues on my Facebook page

EM: You are among those who are calling for the July 8th demonstration. Why are you calling for that demonstration and what are the demands of the participants?

AN: After many discussions we decided that for the July 8th demonstration we need to stay away from group-specific demands and instead start another sit-in to demand the overhaul of the entire government system and to ban NDP leaders from participating in politics for five years. This is because the situation hasn’t improved much. All the police officers who are accused of killing people in the revolution are still in their positions and some of them have even been promoted. The families of the martyrs are being blackmailed and those injured in the revolution are ignored [by the government]. Also, to receive the bodies of the martyrs the families are asked to sign away their right to sue. There are still 9,000 activists in prison and civilians are being tried in military courts. Demonstrations are still suppressed as we saw with the workers demonstrations and the demonstrations in front of the Israeli embassy. Nothing has changed. Torture still exists and the army made further changes to the proposed constitutional changes after the referendum and gave itself the power to create the laws it wants.

EM: Why are you against joining any political party or turning a political movement like April 6 into a party?

AN: I believe that since the army is currently “playing” the political elites and is controlling them, the only hope is in revolutionary movements. This is because the movements that existed before and during the revolution, like April 6, are not hierarchical so every member is equal. This makes it very difficult to negotiate with or control these vast numbers. Political parties on the other hand are hierarchical so it is easy to negotiate with them and control them and this is what we saw happen with the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, because it is the only politicized movement, i.e. it is the only movement where every member is subject to the political agenda of their party. 

 

 

[Dove in cage: Freedom. Officer: There ain't] 

 

[The Revolution's Youth. Left to Right: Man with beard: Do what the Guide [of the Muslim Brotherhood] says!. Coptic priest: Do what the Pope says! Officer: Do what the military council says! Intellectual: Do what the elite says!] 

 

 

 [No To Trying Poor People in Military Courts!]

[Officer on horse: So that you stop pretending thar you are a tough man.]

[Man being dragged: But I thought there was a revolution!]

 

 [Screen banner: Just In: An armed peaceful demonstration in support of Father-Leader Mubarak.]

[Man on right: Let's go to our correspondent who is with the million person march praising his excellency, the leader, father, grandfather, and mother's husband.]

[Man on left: Millions are gathering here in the Media Complex to declare their loyalty and love to Mubarak and they vow to continue the protest of armed camels even if they are not paid.]

[Newspaper headline: Tunisian Tyrant Falls. Man: Don't you think it's time to lighten the load a bit?]

1 comment for "Revolutionary Cartoons: An Interview With Ahmad Nady"

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Thank you very much for this interesting interview & for the cartoons. I hope you don't mind if I note a few details about the images that contribute significantly to their meaning.

The second cartoon parodies the Egyptian custom of subu', a folk practice in which a baby is put into a sieve (that's what the "revolutionary youth" is sitting in) and a brass mortar & pestle are struck by the baby's ear (in the cartoon you can see the officer holding it, and the sound "tiz!" written out beside it). In the custom of subu', the baby is gently shaken in the sieve while the mortar & pestle are pounded & relatives whisper in the baby's ear things like "listen to Mom & Dad!" These details add rich context to the image: the "revolutionary youth" are like newborns, and the authorities are condescendingly treating them like babies.

The third image evokes the final scene of the 1969 Yusuf Shahin film "al-Ard" ("the earth"), in which the leading male character, played by Mahmud al-Maligi, is dragged to death through his fields behind the horse of a police officer. This relates the cartoonist's message to a film, well-known to most Egyptians, that is about their earlier struggles against oppression.

In the third cartoon, the broadcaster on the right is a woman with Mubarak's face, and the person on the left also has Mubarak's face. In other words, all the media have Mubarak's face!

Robin wrote on July 05, 2011 at 03:34 PM

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