Palestinian Cartoonist Naji Al Ali was gunned down by the silencer gun of an unknown assailant. The finger that pulled the trigger was unable to silence the voice that lived on in his images and his most famous creation: Hanthala.
He was the father and Hanthala was the son. The strength of his words and lines were the holy ghost with which many people and comic artists lived by finding hope and solace in his black and white lines.
Al Ali died for many reasons. The one that resonates loud at this time and age since his untimely departure is the power of the word, the line and that of comics. Whoever killed him feared his words and his images.
Ali’s death like the death of Argentinian journalist and comic auteur Héctor Germán Oesterheld, who disappeared in 1977, fueled the fire that was brewing within political cartoonists and comic artists around the world. It is 2012 and the art of cartooning and comics is as strong as ever and feared by corrupt politicians and leaders.
Sadly in this part of the world, the Middle East, comics and comic artists are still looked upon as a threat. Look what happend to Syrian comic artist Ali Farzat, who dared and drew Bashar Al Assad in an unflattering way. He was abducted, beaten to a pulp and his arms were broken. That’s another blog post by the way!
Forgive me if I don’t cover the entire history of this amazing art medium in tonight’s post. I will but in another post in which I will revisit with you the human casualties of this art form that was always and will be associated with the freedom of speech. Let us say for now, if it weren’t for artists and writer like Al Ali and Oesterheld the comics of today would live in fear. They not only gave their lives to their way of life but to the way of life of others like myself who believe in the power of the word and the line that interconnects to create a drawing.
Three days ago in 1987 Al Ali died but his work hasn’t. Hanthala is as alive as ever. The above poster is a tribute to a small part of me that is Palestinian. I am someone who loved Ali’s drawings but did not know much about him.
No one drew Palestine the way he did. The man’s work is like a fragmented eternal love poem of pain, death, angst, pride and dedication to his tormented mistress Palestine.
It is time for me to stop writing so you can Google this amazing artist. If you happen to be in Down Town Amman make sure you get a copy of his works from Abu Ali’s Kiosk and Al Jaheth Kiosk. Just ask about Naji Al Ali. Tell them he is an old friend and you miss seeing his poignant drawings.
“Drawing to me is a profession, a job and a hobby. Even though I’ve been working as a caricaturist for over 20 years now, I’ve never felt satisfied with my work. Sometimes I feel helpless in my inability to employ this expressive language in conveying my angst as it is quite immense. Still, drawing gives me an inner balance; it consoles me and at the same time tortures me. I often say that the caricatures I draw make me a fortunate man, and luckier from others, as it allows me to vent out my anxieties; others may die of the anguish that burdens their hearts and injects its daily dose of venom in their blood system. Seeing these people makes me realize that drawing consoles me,” Al Ali says.
Naji Al Ali quote translation by Sardine
Poster by Sardine