Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Cartoons as Illustration: Political Process in Nigeria

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Cartoons as Illustration: Political Process in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

Pictorial form of communication can be said to have existed as long as man himself. In Africa, proof of drawings, paintings and engravings- rock art which is precursor of the cartoon- is available in a variety of sources and oddly enough was discovered earlier than the European ones. Dating these have been rather difficult for several reasons, but the exciting Namibian discovery has been radiocarbon-dated to about 27,000 years ago (Willett 1993) (1). Willett even posits that, since humankind appears to have originated in Africa, it may well be said art, in this instance the cartoon, originated here.

Man being perhaps the highest social creature is known to devise clear means and processes of organizing and controlling its teeming populace wherever they commune for development. These processes are known as political systems known by various names and characteristics in the various countries of the world. Both the European and American systems of government have been used in Nigeria, interspersed with forceful impositions of military regimes.

Visual image, known to be a medium of communication--conveying message quickly and clearly--is one critical component of the development of political processes. Of the various visual forms and illustration genres in modern times, the cartoon is perhaps one of the most usual. It is said to be a visual metaphor or metaphorical codification through which an artist (a functional member of the polity and keen societal gauge trained in close observation), informs, educates or entertains his viewers. Furthermore, it has been classified as a form of cool media (2). Nelson argues that cartoon is a screaming medium that cannot be denied attention. (3) The pedagogical function of the cartoon has proven a valuable instrument and avenue to educate the readers in any publication where it appears. Cartoons are sometimes satirical and humorous in subject and inevitably elicit readers' participation.

Illustrating Political Process in Nigeria

With regards to Nigeria, the cartoon as a visual communication genre is noted to have gained prominence with the political struggle against colonialism in the early part of the 20th century. It received a weighty mandate within the nationalist media of the day espousing anti-colonial interests and sentiments. Through Akin Lasekan, famed as the first cartoonist in Nigeria and the West African Pilot newspaper for which he worked, cartoon was established as a vital force within the political struggle to liberate Nigeria from British colonization.

According to Lent (2000), in some cartoons, the message is so subtle that readers debate among themselves who is being attacked. (4) The process of unveiling serious ideas through cartoon may involve the use of satire, humour, contrast, surprise and even nonsense. (5) Two types of cartoons have been generally identified, viz: cartoons of opinion and cartoons of jokes. While cartoons of opinion focus on domestic politics, social themes and foreign affairs and cartoons of jokes are designed to communicate humor, (6) there is a thin line differentiating these two. According to Kemnitz, 'Often the distinction between the two is almost as easy to make in practice as it is in theory.. .Thus in modern American newspapers the cartoon of opinion is often on the editorial page, but the joke cartoons appear on other pages' (6). Khan has classified political cartoon as opinion cartoon with two basic types: caricature, which parodies the individual and allusion, and that which creates the situation or context into which the individual is placed. But it is significant to note that cartoon--except for propaganda, editorial or opinion cartoon--does not attempt direct attack on individuals 'but rather as representative of an institution, moral or religious dogma, or of things that were considered too 'serious'...' (8) Yet cartoon is an intellectual tool that can be subtly used to throw a severe blow at powerful tyrants. …

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