A world through cartoon lenses

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A CHANCE meeting with renowned cartoonist and satirist Boyd Maliki in a city bookshop triggered this reflection about the invaluable role of cartoonists and satirists in our society.

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Indeed, there are many who will buy a newspaper or magazine just for the cartoon strip!

Andy Capp, Hagar the Horrible, Garfield, Snoopy, Fred Basset, Chikwama, Hoza, Ngwabi the Analyst, Taikuni, Nyathi and Gringo are popular culture figures who have given generations of followers escapist humour.

They are vehicles through whom their creators have vented their frustrations, idiosyncrasies, and twisted irreverent takes on life.

In a sense, they are alter egos via which readers live vicariously. Andy Capp’s fractious relationship with his mother-in-law and long suffering wife for instance, are subjects well beloved of many male newspaper and magazine readers.

Hagar the Horrible a swashbuckling cartoon Viking character, endears himself to readers because of his human weaknesses.

Ngwabi the analyst is funny simply because he is not funny! I know the creator Martin Mahenga personally as well as I know a guy called Xaba who religiously buys the Chronicle to see what Ngwabi thinks. Life.

Not just child’s play
Before you sneer, consider this: Cartoon strips such as Superman were turned into multi-million dollar movie franchises that have created thousands of jobs for communities.

Disney started with a simple Mickey Mouse cartoon character. To date, there are theme parks and hotels and . . . You get my drift. So don’t be hasty to say its child’s play. You may find yourself using your accounting degree to count the coins in an enterprise founded on child’s play!

Social commentary

Maliki is an African legend in terms of satire and cartoon strips. His work has been syndicated in various publications far and wide. Maliki has had dalliances with DC Marvel (superman’s creators) and Disney land in the United States! Take Maliki’s character Taikuni, which had a fine run even in South Africa’s famous Drum magazine.

Taikuni gave readers an opportunity to participate in a social discourse around corrupt businessmen-cum-politicians in our society. It provided us with a necessary cathartic experience to see Taikuni get into a fix for his foibles and greed.

People do need to loosen up and laugh at themselves sometimes. I suppose ego gets in the way.

Yours belatedly, Amakhosi Township Square
Inxusa Festival was a success on so many levels. Cont Mhlanga brought together academia, artists, business and the general community together in microcosm. At the colloquium, serious discussion around the idea of arts training took centre stage.

The problem question was whether someone could be trained at university to be an artist.

“We cannot as universities train people how to be sculptors for example. We have to decide on our mission as universities whether it is our job to train people to become artists. Academics in my opinion, are supposed to go to the artists and document what artists are doing and publish books. Where are the books going to come from? Our academics are lazy,” Wonderful Bere from Chinhoyi University of Technology’s creative arts faculty, said.

I believe that you can’t “make” an artist per se, but it helps to pursue further education should you be gifted in the area.

So I imagine that if one of Zimbabwe’s premier video filmmakers Andy Cutta Sobhuza goes to film school, his cutting edge will only bristle with sharpness. Of course, he does a fine job even now without training in his particular vocation. I know Sobhuza studied computers just like top music producer Joe Maseko of the House of Rising Sound in Gwabalanda.

There has been a serious dearth of certified arts training institutions locally which is where Amakhosi could go all things being equal.

A word about Bra Cont
The foundation of experience has been laid over the years at Amakhosi and as a symbol of the Zimbabwean cultural industry, the centre now requires structure and transparency — beyond the founder’s charismatic leadership to inspire sustained corporate and civil society support.

In this way, a legacy will stand preserved and students coming out of the arts programmes at Zimbabwean tertiary institutions will have a critical point of reference.

There does appear to be a realisation with Amakhosi’s director that he has taken his vision as far as he could and that he now needs help in moving it forward through partnership with relevant and progressive forces within academia.

“Our weakest link here at Amakhosi is documentation. Young academics can follow me and document me. I can’t document it myself. If I die it’s all gone,” he admitted to this writer.

Dear Information minister:
Thank you for saying and doing all the right things thus far. ZBC is a national asset as you well know. The people in our cultural industries want ZBC’s processes of engagement with the arts community to be transparent.

If say for example an independent producer wants to produce a soapie, they should be able to know which commissioning editor to approach. The processes must not be opaque.

In short, ZBC needs to be restructured in terms of its organogram or at least the public needs to be made aware of the structures for accountability’s sake. We do not really need to reinvent the wheel considering the massive investment that has been made over time.

Therefore, ZBC should be able to hire proven individuals to man its offices. That will catalyse progress in the cultural industries.

SABC for example, may not be perfect in terms of its operations, but its programming is generally superlative.

Independent producers such as Mfundi Vundla (Generations) and Duma Ndlovu (Muvhango) access its facilities and produce riveting world-class content which generates revenue for the institution while creating many jobs.

Your ministry can be at the forefront of infusing the idea of a meritocracy in our society. There must be no sacred cows except excellence and ethical leadership.

The girl, the pimp and the prophet?
Meanwhile, the former exotic dancer Beverly Sibanda’s manager just won’t let go. While the former dancer and singer is busy trying to bury her seedy past and get on with the Lord, the “manager” is moaning about the loss of an income! Happas Mapimhidze (Bev’s manager) is definitely not going to get paid at the Prophet’s palace.

He must accept that a “better” man has swept Bev off her feet and given her a shop and maybe some respectability.

Zoey Sifelani former rival, believes that it’s all a ruse. Who are we to judge Bev? Give the girl a break and pray for her. We are at times such hypocrites.