Rosa Parks to Obama in South African cartoonist's picture
Cartoonist highlights history
The election of Barack Hussein Obama has resonated in South Africa because of the human rights issues that have been so prominent in the struggle against and eventual overcoming of apartheid. From the southern tip of Africa Obama’s rise to the presidency has looked in many ways like the victory over apartheid and the ushering in of democracy after so many dismal years of authoritarian, ethnically-based politics.
Obama looks like a breath of fresh air after the appalling Bush presidency, in much the same way as Nelson Mandela did after the long, dark years which culminated in the victory of the African National Congress, led by Mr Mandela, in April 1994.
One of the most controversial and interesting South African cartoonists is Jonathan Shapiro, who publishes under the pen-name “Zapiro” – and he has “Zapped” many a politician in South Africa, to the extent that he is facing defamation law suits from some of the most aggrieved.
He does not spare foreign politicians from his sharp-nibbed pen either. Bush has been on the receiving end of quite a few uncomplimentary Zapiro cartoons, the one from July 2002 being rather typical. Indeed members of the Faith and Politics Institute laid complaints against Zapiro for his depictions of both Bush and Clinton in 2003.
Zapiro picked up on the human rights aspect of Obama’s victory in a cartoon published in in the South African newspaper The Sunday Times on 9 November 2008. The struggle that led up to the election of Obama is traced from Rosa Parks’ refusal to stand up for a white on that famous bus ride in December 1955, through the marches led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr., to the famous victory by the first African American to be elected to the presidency of the United States.
Another Zapiro cartoon, published in the Mail and Guardian on 6 November, a weekly tabloid with a decidedly critical orientation and reputation, picks up on the difference between the somewhat insular and closed presidency of Bush and the world-oriented outlook of Obama. The cartoonist emphasized the facts of Obama’s African father, US mother and Asian upbringing giving him the aura of being a “Global President.”
Indeed, the African connection is widely welcomed in South Africa, and has raised perhaps unrealistic expectations of what this could mean for the continent.
We wait with bated breath for the next installment of Zapiro cartoons about Obama.
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