A cartoonist in Uganda

Astute readers will note that there have not really been many cartoons or indeed any kind of drawings from Uganda this week. I could make excuses. Like the fact that there has been so much to see that I have preferred to spend my limited blogging time putting up pictures and posts rather than sitting…

mosquitos

Astute readers will note that there have not really been many cartoons or indeed any kind of drawings from Uganda this week.

I could make excuses. Like the fact that there has been so much to see that I have preferred to spend my limited blogging time putting up pictures and posts rather than sitting and drawing. Or insist that I have also been rather hampered by my netbook computer, which has been, as feared, rather inadequate for the task. (It only has one gigabyte of memory which isn’t really enough to look at the internet with the couple of tabs I need to have open for blogging. I should really have bought a new computer.)

The one genuine excuse is that my mind has been elsewhere for valid reasons – this is not the place to explain, but some of you will understand.

But the truth is that I haven’t been able, so far, to meet the real challenge – finding ways to draw cartoons about the challenging issues I have been coming face to face with: poverty, inequality, how to rebuild your life from scratch, and so on.

Let me give an example of how some of the tricks that cartoonists normally use don’t really work in such a situation. One of the building blocks of humour, used by cartoonists, standups, and others, is exaggeration. Perhaps comparing two things and, for cartoonists, drawing one in an exaggerated way. On the face of it it might be possible to compare aspects of UK culture with aspects of life here in Uganda. But any such comparison would risk making Ugandan culture the butt of the joke, which is the last thing I want to do.

It is entirely possible to draw cartoons about very difficult subjects. Cartoonists do it all the time. But I haven’t managed it here. I have found it very hard to draw anything about my experience in Uganda without being seen, at some level, to mock what I have been seeing.

Poking fun at us, the western visitors, is easy. The notebook scribble above is an example of that. Oh – that is a mosquito net by the way. I could do more of the same, but that would be a way of avoiding the important issues.

Before I came here I was careful not to tell people that I would be cartooning, but rather described what I would be doing here as illustration. I have some ideas for illustrations which I hope to work on soon, but in their current form they are not really cartoons. I have, at the very least, failed to live up to my own expectations.

Please excuse a badly-expressed blog post. But writing it will hopefully help me with a longer article I need to write. Any thoughts on the whole subject would be welcomed. Please excuse a lack of reply if there is one, as I don’t yet know how much more internet I will have after this evening until we get back on Monday morning.

Cartoonist

Picture: Cartoonist pretending to draw cartoons. The pop belonged to Liz, who kindly took the photo.

7 Comments

  1. Dave it’s very difficult to come up with a finished piece of art or thought when you are evidently still processing so much. I completely understand. My best advice is to not feel pressure to come up with the goods instantly. You’ll probably find you are able to put much more down when you are out of the situation.
    God bless,

    John

  2. I’m not sure if it would work, but maybe a kind of #firstworldproblems / #thirdworldproblems kind of thing?

    It would make fun of our lives, but maybe also highlight their real issues.

  3. I’m reading this on Sunday morning in California and will be sharing your Uganda story with folks at church during the coffee hour. There will undoubtedly be prayers for you and the villagers, both silently and aloud.

  4. Don’t beat yourself up Dave! You’ve been through and seen a lot, some, probably most, of which has had a huge emotional impact on you. Stuff will undoubtedly come from it, but the experience needs to be thought about and digested. I’ve enjoyed your posts and they have made me think. I look forward to any more, asi always do. Prayers are being said (for you all the people you have mentioned.)

  5. Actually, this cartoon makes the point, possibly, more effectively than a hundred photos – it shows, undeniably, that you are there – and connects with us – which, I guess, is what this visit is all about …

  6. This was a very well expressed post. I agree with all what people have written above; give it some time to percolate through adn to gently simmer. You will then somehow work this experience into your cartoons. Do not strain about this, it will work it self into the shape you need. First get a 24 hours rest at least, re-accommodating to the life in UK; soul, brain and fingers will work it out and then let you know….All the best.
    And thank you for your blogs, they were good!

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