Cartoons, an art form packed with humour and wit, have been engaging audiences since centuries. They have the ability to express grave issues in light-hearted ways. However, not all cartoonists opt out for only serious messages.
"Even a straightforward message, based on a simple theme but well supported with background and environment, can communicate in effective ways," shares renowned cartoonist Ahsan Habib, the Editor and Publisher of the monthly satire magazine, Unmad. He also talks about the importance of maintaining subtlety while creating such pieces. "Everyone has their own freedom, and cartoonists are no different. However, when a cartoon, or any such creation, especially those that belong to the genre of lampoon satire, offends someone, then that piece loses its fun essence," he explains. "Being able to present issues in ways that do not distort the relevance or importance of the message and also manages to keep a sense of decency and mindfulness are two creative skills a good cartoonist should have."
Apart from political satire, cartoons highlight social reformation in various other forms. "There are several types of cartoons that are published by print media. We see popular political satires in editorial and opinion-oriented cartoons, but social issues are better expressed with pocket cartoons. While journalistic reports with photographs present issues in very serious tones, pocket cartoons like Rafiqun Nabi's Tokai put forward social issues in subtle tones," mentions renowned cartoonist Shishir Bhattacharjee.
Expression and form are very important in fine arts, and cartoons are no different. "While idea begets expression, being able to express ideas in a humourous way is a challenge for most of us," mentions Niaz Chowdhury Tuli, Senior Cartoonist at ProthomAlo. "Caricatures are very popular, especially when it comes to political and social satires. However, over doing one's facial expressions, attires, or accessories may hurt the sentiments of the person, their peers or even the audience. Representation of characters through proper figures has been an important lesson for me over the years."
The preference and perception regarding cartoon has changed over the past few years. "In recent times, illustration based cartoons are gaining popularity," shares Biplob Chakroborty, Staff Cartoonist, The Daily Star. "This sort of artistic creations helps shed light on economic issues besides social constraints."
Drawing cartoons is a full-fledged job for many today. "Over the years, I have seen a progress in this profession. Artists start by creating cartoons, then move towards comics and graphic novels, and finally work towards 2D and 3D animation," adds Ahsan Habib. "They have chosen this profession and inspired others to follow in their footsteps."
Emerging artists are faced with both opportunities and challenges in this profession. "Cartoonists of the current generation draw inspiration from older works, but speaking from my personal experience as an art teacher, I often find them accustomed to filtered forms of expression," asserts artist Sadatuddin Ahmed, a lecturer at Institute of Fine Arts, University of Chittagong. "While this helps them understand the limitations and social boundaries and keeps them from harming the sentiments of others, it also makes them less observant towards the skills and intelligence applied by the artist to present things in a subtler manner."
On the other hand, there has been a remarkable growth when it comes to delivering social messages. "Previously, we had to be aware about revealing things on national mediums. However, with time, social media has become a place where people have to be constantly cautious of their activities. This change has forced a form of self-censorship into young minds. Working with such filters is definitely a challenge," says Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, Founder of Cartoon People and Associate Editor of Unmad. "Cartoons can connect with the public and raise social and global awareness. As a result, aspiring cartoonists, who are tech savvy, can flourish in this line of work."
At times, artworks can go beyond positive changes. To that end, Assistant Editor of Unmad and Forbes Asia 30 under 30 nominee Morshed Mishu, feels that there is a fine line between instigation and rebellion. "Before revealing an artwork, three things should be thought about - the creation itself, the subject matter of the creation and the possible responses to the creation," he shares. "Heinous crimes like rape demand protest. But putting forward things about a specific organisation or person repeatedly, will only instigate others against it."
Potraying wit and humour with enough subtlety is the hallmark of a great cartoonist, and is a feat that deserves more credit than it gets.