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Rosa Parks to Obama in South African cartoonist's picture

Updated on February 3, 2015

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.

How much freedom should cartoonists have?

Cartoonists should have free rein to make fun of politicians and others in public life

See results
Bush's colonoscopy - Zapiro's 2002 cartoon
Bush's colonoscopy - Zapiro's 2002 cartoon
Obama's victory - so we all can fly!
Obama's victory - so we all can fly!
Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King Jr in the background
Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King Jr in the background
The bus Rosa Parks was riding on 1 December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama
The bus Rosa Parks was riding on 1 December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama
The "Global President"
The "Global President"
Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2008
Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2008


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    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Habee - thanks for dropping by and commenting. Yes, indeed, thank goodness for free speech!

      Love and peace


    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Great hub! I think politicians are fair game - including Obama. Every president has had to suffer through these, and now Obama is receiving his share! Thank goodness for free speech!

    • RVilleneuve profile image


      11 years ago from Michigan

      Very Nice Tony! Have you heard the song version of Rosa Sat. They have it on YouTube!

    • tonymac04 profile imageAUTHOR

      Tony McGregor 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks to you all for your comments.

      Vladimir - it is because of liberals that you are able to make comments like the one you made, so maybe they should not all, or even some, be sent to St Helena!

      Love and peace,


    • justmesuzanne profile image


      11 years ago from Texas

      Y'know, I was gonna vote "Maybe" on the poll til I scrolled down a little and saw Bush's colonoscopy! LOL! Now my answer is, "Yes!" Free rein!

      I can't wait until President Obama is sworn in and Bush gets his blankety-blank heinie out of our White House!

      Thanks for a great HUB!

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 

      11 years ago from HubPages, FB

      This is why I love America, freedom, including cartoons. But some liberals (maybe all) should be sent to St. Helen,  uuuuups

    • countrywomen profile image


      11 years ago from Washington, USA

      Nice cartoons. I hope at the end of Obama's 4 years we all come out with "flying colors"...hehe.


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