Friday, April 23, 2021

Mohammad Sabaaneh: A Distorting Caricaturist

By Anna Donati - December 17, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [culture] [artist]

At the age of 40, his face circled by glasses, Mohammad Sabaaneh, is one of the few caricaturists of the Palestinian press.

In Kuwait, where he was born after his mother had to leave Palestine, she had already showed him the drawings of Naji Al Ali and his character, Handala, a kid with his back turned and hands crossed, a resistance symbol for Palestine.
"For my mother, showing us the drawings of Naji Al Ali was a tool, a way to tell us about Palestine, the country of our ancestors," Mohammad Sabaaneh said, in front of one of his drawings from his exhibition in Paris this december title Palestine in Drawings.
His famous drawing is of a Palestinian woman, and in her womb there are chained beings, pieces of wall, checkpoint barriers and slaughterings.
"Of course, we can see the fate of Palestinians, but, in reality, does this not apply to today's world? Trump's wall against the migrants, the millions of refugees, the war in Syria, the war in Yemen ... ," the artist said.
As little as six years old, Sabaaneh already won a prize for a drawing evoking Palestine. An addiction from which he will never separate.
At university, he studied interior architecture but wished to only draw. In 2001, in the Palestinian city of Nablus where he was a student, he displayed his drawings in an exhibition.
"In fact, I really started drawing as soon as the first day of the Intifada," he said, referring to the Palestinian uprising that erupted in late September 2000. “I had to express what was happening in Palestine at this moment.”
The influence of Naji Al Ali is still felt, especially through the black and white drawing of Handala.
"When I had access to the Web, I was able to see what the caricaturists in the world were doing," Sabaaneh explained. “This allowed me to refine and assert my style, using the computer and color."
Like Naji Al Ali, Sabaaneh gave birth to a character, Abu Fayeq, to ​​talk about the political situation but also about the Palestinian reality. Though he abandoned this character - Abu Fayeq -   in 2013 "because i wanted another story about the political situation.”
“We were made to believe that we lived in a state in the West Bank, but that was not true. Everything is related to the occupation and we had to talk about that. Because of the war between Fatah and Hamas we lost our time, we exhausted ourselves."
Third prize winner of the Arab comics award in 2013, Mohammad Sabaaneh publishes press drawings in several Arab newspapers such as Al-Hayat al-Jadida or Al-Ghad.
He is the author of the book White and Black: political cartoons of Palestine and also animates drawing workshops for children. The drawing and even more the caricature are a formidable weapon. In 2013, returning from Jordan, he was arrested by the Israeli army and spent three months in prison.
Sabaaneh also faces a cautious censorship from the newspapers he works with.
Drawings referring to Saudi Arabia, the economic situation or corruption in Palestine are regularly dismissed. "But in my head I keep all my freedom," he proclaimed proudly.

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