Thursday 8 August 2013

The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali

The cartoonist who perhaps receives the most attention in the western media in relation to Palestine and the Palestinian struggle is not himself Palestinian, but was born in Malta and now lives and works in the United States.

Joe Sacco has produced some of the most technically accomplished and searingly honest works of comics journalism in the field, including such hefty tomes as Palestine and Footnotes from Gaza (both published by Jonathan Cape in the UK), and it is testament to his knowledge with regards the Palestinians and their struggle for basic rights and dignity that Verso Books chose him to write the introduction to their collection of cartoons by the great Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali (1936-1987), creator of the iconic character Hanthala.

A Child in Palestine first appeared in 2009 and is still available in most bookstores or online from the publisher, and is an excellent compendium of his beautiful, often heart-wrenching, but always searingly satirical cartoons which simultaneously poke fun at the U.S., Israel, and corrupt Arab elites. As Sacco tells us in his introduction: "Naji al-Ali remains a hero in the Arab world, in particular to the Palestinians, who say his name with the same tenderness with which they mention the great poets."

His recurring character, the child Hanthala, is a perennial observer, who always appears with his back to the audience and never says a word. It has been said that Hanthala represents the Palestinian people, watching silently, in outrage, defiance, sorrow, as all manner of brutality and hypocracy unfold before them.

I urge you all to check out his work.