Emad Hajjaj talks depth, timelessness of cartoons

(Photos: Handouts by Emad Hajjaj)
AMMAN — Local cartoonist Emad Hajjaj has experienced both criticism and praise over the course of his career. He spoke with Jordan News about his vision for his unique art form.اضافة اعلان

“Caricature is my own way to change the world around me. It is how I reshape the bitter truth of the world by drawing it from my own perspective,” Emad Hajjaj told Jordan News in an interview.

To artist Hajjaj, who created the famous character “Abu Mahjoub” as a representation of the typical Jordanian man, cartoons are more than just drawings; they are a movement. The artist, who has drawn creative and provocative cartoons for over 25 years, was previously the chairman of the Jordanian Cartoon Council Association.

Hajjaj seeks to make his cartoons as “light” and “amusing” as possible. While some cartoonists weaponize their work by subtly insulting other cultures, Hajjaj believes that a cartoonist must always be “well-equipped” with ideas that provide humorous content to society without creating a “clash of civilizations” and must stay as far away as possible from spiteful content that does not represent the true colors of cartoons.

“Cartoons are a form of classy humor with a mission to draw smiles and produce giggles. They are a ubiquitous language that speaks to everyone without using words, not a tool of conflict. Whoever uses them in that form is not a real cartoonist,” Hajjaj told Jordan News.

While the artist is best known for covering political topics in his cartoons, he believes that cartoons were created to express more than just politics and that they should discuss topics such as life, history, and philosophy.

“These concepts illustrate how cartoonists get their ideas and how they perceive the world. A cartoonist, in my opinion, must build a mirror that reflects how his eyes see the world in his work,” he said.

He also likes to express his nostalgic side through his cartoons every now and then. “I am an extremely nostalgic person. Every now and then I like to pause and replay my childhood memories, and can’t help myself but to express them in my drawings,” he added.

His passion, however, continues to face obstacles. One of them is censorship, a cartoonist’s worst nightmare. Censorship, according to Hajjaj, is “developing into new modern forms” on online platforms that limit a cartoonist’s ability to use their artwork to convey ideas.

Another challenge for Hajjaj is public misunderstanding of his work. “This is one of the biggest obstacles in a cartoonist’s path,” he said, “We are living in a world of visual symbols. If a cartoonist fails to convey the message behind his cartoon, it will easily backfire on him.”

According to the artist, cartoonists in Jordan are going through “very difficult times”, with many of them not being able to share their work in the press as they once did. New artists in the field are taking to social media platforms to share their humorous art, but do not get paid for their work.

“The biggest accomplishment in a cartoonist’s world now a day is to become an authorized illustrator and enter the world of TV production. I hope that in the near future such accomplishments become available for all the cartoonists’ and that the country takes these talents under its wing,” he said.

Hajjaj hopes that this art form will always be carved in the hearts of Jordanians and be a breath of fresh air when they need it.

“Cartoon art will never die. I encourage all young cartoon artists to pursue this form of art and know that the purpose it serves is great and noble,” he added.

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