Caricature is a satirical illustration of a person or a thing while a cartoon is the illustration of an idea or a situation, so it is said. The term is derived from the Italian verb caricare (charge, overact). Caricature or satirical art became fashionable in the 18th century in Italy and France and was used to make fun of aristocracy, politicians and society, to mock or to hurt or also to bring the attention on misery in the lower classes.
Caricaturists live dangerously, not only in the old times but also in the 20th and 21st centuries, the risk to be pulled in front of the court for ‘lese majesty’ or defamation of persons in high positions is always present. In many countries these artists use a pen name for fear of being caught, persecuted or even killed, in other democratic countries the freedom of opinion and speech guarantees some security but still these people move on tiptoes.
A caricature is always on living persons not on invented figures. It is a view held widely in democratic countries that persons who put themselves deliberately into the public light are free for critical attacks, comments in word and in picture, although to my personal belief there are limits to be respected in some areas such as religion. Caricature or cartoon respectively is a tool and works in many ways. It serves to point the finger at persons doing something wrong, or at wheelings and dealings by such persons, or at abuses or injustices in all fields, in such a minimal way to be immediately understood by the reader of a newspaper and often replaces hundreds of words of explanation. It is a special talent to come to the point with a few lines or a drawing; it requires intimate knowledge of the situation and good powers of observation but also a strong sense of irony and delicacy. A good caricature or cartoon is not vulgar, it flows from the pen of an intellectual who has studied the way of expressing him/herself for many years and has studied his objects of observance. And…the most important aspect, it reaches the readers right there where it is intended to hit; it influences the minds of people and helps constructing prejudices, and can therefore be a dangerous tool. I heard from insiders that caricaturists are extremely well paid for leading the tip of their arrows into a certain direction when for example decisions are to be justified that are not quite proper. There was a worldwide complaint by the associations to stop this attitude.
There are numberless associations worldwide cooperating and carrying out competitions and exhibitions; many countries have proper caricature museums; just try to browse in the internet on the lookout for such associations; participation in competitions is connected with prizes and awards and it is this way that caricaturists and cartoonists become known and collect some prize money. They travel across the globe and participate in exhibitions, but usually they communicate via online connections and online magazines.
Each country has its famous caricature/cartoon artists and their style and messages are not forgotten. In North Cyprus we have a number of caricaturists and cartoonists with their own association established in 1986 by a handful of artists of this genre. They had a first street exhibition at the Museum of the Whirling Dervishes in 1983, of which I still have a photo. The six founding members of the association were: M. Serhan Gazioğlu, Alper Susuzlu, Hüseyin Çakmak, Mehmet Ulubatlı, Musa Kayra and Cemal Tunceri; today there are some more, for example Mustafa Tozakı, Arik Albayrak, Mustafa Azizoğlu, Serkan Sürek, just to name a few, but as I said before, only a handful of them are publishing in local newspapers. One of the reasons is that caricatures/cartoons are not paid at all, are not respected by the newspapers as a valuable contribution, the other reason is that some late political figures in power have been fighting the caricaturists in a more or less successful way. I had interviewed most of the artists. I can only have some of their work displayed in this issue, some more you can see on my website. I must not forget to mention the online Magazine ‘Yeni Akrep/New Scorpion’ the editor-in-chief of which is Hüseyin Çakmak, a comprehensive magazine where all the news in the scene are published.
A final word in defense of them from my side: The artists of caricatures/cartoons are incessantly on the watch out and guardians of democracy, social justice and environmental matters. For example our local association had initiated an international competition in 2008 on behalf of the olive trees which were being cut down by the hundreds on our island. The many results were published in a book and the winners invited to come to the island. Together they planted a row of olive trees in front of the Kyrenia Amphitheatre to memorize the event.