Sketching society: Omar Abdallat on political cartoons, satire

Cartoonist Omar Abdallat رسام الكاريكاتير عمر العبداللات
Cartoonist Omar Al-Abdallat. (Photo: Facebook)
AMMAN — When an artist sets out to create a cartoon — specifically a political cartoon — what kind of messages do they try to express, and how do these messages influence society?اضافة اعلان

Take it straight from a cartoonist: According to British-Jordanian activist, publicspeaker, and cartoonist Omar Al-Abdallat, cartoons are an “essential pillar in the development of society” that “contribute to raising morale and shedding light on the suffering of peoples while drawing the attention of officials”.

In many cases, cartoons “provide solutions and present and clarify problems”, Abdallat told Jordan News in a recent interview.

Pictures of societyAbdallat’s perspective is based on his personal experience as a political cartoonist.

The artist first published his political cartoons in Jordan’s Addustour newspaper in 2008, inspired by his observations of both “everything that is beautiful” in Jordanian society and the obstacles “that impede development”. He also gained insight through reading books, following up on current events, and watching films.

His artwork was met with widespread support and garnered interaction on the part of both Jordanians and Arabs. Abdallat attributed this engagement to the fact that “these drawings clearly reflected their problems”.

Becoming an artistBorn in London in 1978, Abdallat began his journey as an artist at a young age.

“I started drawing cartoons during childhood, and I had a great passion for it,” he said.

Initially, as he learned to create cartoons through self-study, “it was more of a hobby than a profession”. Later, he began to study art formally. He obtained a BA in Graphic Design in 2001 and received further training in the US.

Politics and puppetsCurrently, Abdallat works for his own company and publishes his work on websites specialized in Arab political cartoons. He has also contributed to several local and regional exhibitions.

As an activist, he has facilitated various workshops in partnership with local charities, participated as a motivational speaker at national and regional events, and provided community services on creative thinking for young people.

One of Abdallat’s more recent projects is his participation in a satirical political TV show, Man Saf Baladi, created and presented by Ahmed Hassan Al-Zoubi.

For the show, Abdallat wrote scripts, acted in satirical scenes, and developed a personality known as “Moallem Sehas”, a puppet who makes frequent appearances.

“I learned from my experience in drawing cartoons the need to keep up with technology, so I started studying the puppet world to deliver satirical messages to adults,” the artist explained his process.

In 2018, he successfully developed his character by converting messages into cartoons, then into text, then into a scene with actors (including his puppet).

“This was a great challenge in the beginning, but people’s acceptance of this series encouraged me to continue, even though some people considered me an outsider to the world of acting,” he reflected.

‘Every child is a cartoonist’Dwindling numbers of cartoonists and a hampering of free expression mean that the art of creating political cartoons “is no longer what it was in the past”, Abdullat said.  

However, the situation is not hopeless. The cartoonist called for the development of his art, especially among children.

“Every child is a cartoonist,” said Abdallat. “Every child has an idea and creative thinking that may contribute to raising social awareness.”

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