Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Interview on digital media and editorial cartoons
Dimitris Masvoulas: I would like to start this interview by asking you to give me some more information about your work. What lead you to the decision to become a editorial cartoonist?
Menekse Cam: I have decided to draw editorial cartoons when the politics in my country began to get worse from day to day.
Dimitris Masvoulas: How many years have you been working as an editorial cartoonist?
Menekse Cam: I have been working as an editorial cartoonist, caricaturist ( also on GAG cartoons) for seven years. I have eight prizes in seven years (one of them is national and the others are international ).
Dimitris Masvoulas: Have you worked for specific newspapers and magazines or as a freelancer?
Menekse Cam: Yes, I worked for some humor magazines in Turkey. Some of my works has been published in Turkish newspapers from time to time. But I'm a freelancer in recent years and my works publish in foreign magazines and newspapers. Obviously it makes me happy much more.
Dimitris Masvoulas: Why did you choose this particular medium to express your opinion?
Menekse Cam: Because only one cartoon (even if it doesn't have any speech balloon) can tell people (no matter which language they speak) much more than a lot of pages of the article.
Dimitris Masvoulas: What is the social and political significance of political cartoons, according to you?
Menekse Cam: Politics is a dirty wheel and politicians have the power to do everything for continuation of their authority. As a result of this, we often witness bad political decisions, wars, human rights violations, events that harm nature, exploiting religions etc... Cartoon is an oppositional art and political cartoons create awareness in situations go wrong. They call attention to events by silent screams. So politicians usually are afraid of the political cartoons because they (political cartoons) say what cannot be told.
Dimitris Masvoulas: You said that you decided to draw editorial cartoons when the politics of your country get worse and worse. After taking a look at you work in Cartoon Movement I can see that you don't only deal with topics from your country but also with more global issues like female representation and war. I was wondering, how do you decide which topics you are gonna include in your cartoons?
Menekse Cam: Except the political cartoons I often draw cartoons on global issues which never lose timeliness ( like the problems women have, wars, hunger, ecological issues, human relations etc ) I sometimes draw them on specific days (like 1st may or 8 march ), sometimes by taking inspiration from the competitions. A cartoonist should be able to express him/herself in every topic.
Dimitris Masvoulas: Moreover, since you deal with topics that challenge local and global politics, I was wondering whether you have ever received a comment from a dissatisfied politician, telling you censor or remove your art?
Menekse Cam: Yes, censorship is often in my country. In 31st August 2013 an international exhibition themed Gezi Resistance in my country was organized in Didim.
The exhibition was opened at 14.30. In the night of the same day at 00:15 the works which had a great interest of the public were confiscated by the decision of the prosecutor's office. There were ten cartoons by ten cartoonists in the exhibition. One of them was mine. The judicial process is still continuing.
Dimitris Masvoulas: On a different note, since I told you that a big part of my research is the discussion about the Internet, I would like to know, how did the Internet change the way you work as a cartoonist?
Menekse Cam: Internet provides an extraordinary medium for cartoonists. A cartoon that I have published on the internet can reach to audiences all over the world in a very short time. I am in contact with many cartoonist friends from many countries. We often discuss about what is happening in the world and in our own countries on cartoons and we exchange information. Sometimes we move together and draw cartoons protesting events around the world. This provides us a great motivation and our jobs becomes more significant. Of course internet has disadvantages too. For example cartoons quickly become old because they reach to many people in a very short time. Another problem is plagiarism too.
Dimitris Masvoulas: How would you compare your work on the print form (newspapers, magazines) to the online cartoons that you have produced through your blog and The Cartoon Movement?
Menekse Cam: I think I cannot compare them because they are different areas and serve different purposes. I wouldn't never leave one of them for the other.
Dimitris Masvoulas: Do you think that the Internet offers the cartoonist bigger levels of creative freedom, freeing her/him from restrictions that might have emerged in the print form?
Menekse Cam: No I don't. Despite all the advantages of the internet, in the countries where bans and censorships are always exist, the cartoonists are in greater danger because they be in the limelight by internet (I'm not sure if it's a right phrase. I mean they are in front of eyes more)
Dimitris Masvoulas: On the question about the Internet you mentioned that the Internet has helped you and your fellow cartoonist communicate your message to a bigger audience. On a different note many people have claimed that mainstream media are offering an one-sided representation of local or international events. Do you think that the Internet has given you the opportunity to educate your audience, in a way, and help them see that there is always more than one perspectives or as the message of The Cartoon Movement states, there is more than one truth.
Menekse Cam: Yes, I do. I agree "mainstream media are offering an one-sided representation of local or international events." Most of them are in the hands of the governments. Editorial Cartoons are like a captain's logbook. They are important documents ( not for only the present time but even for the next generations ) and they light on the events day-to-day we live. The aim of cartoons is not just to make people laugh but is to provide of thinking on events, interpreting and querying like an educational method. So, as one of the easiest and fastest ways of communication, internet really give us a great opportunity to educate our audiences and help them to see "there is more than one truth".
Dimitris Masvoulas: I was watching recently a video that was posted on the Cartoon Movement that showed one of your fellow cartoonists, Kianoush Ramezani, talking about the dangers of editorial cartooning. In the video he stated that he perceives himself as an activist. Do you think that can be said for all cartoonists? Is editorial cartooning a form of activism?
Menekse Cam: Yes, in my opinion too. Editorial cartooning is a form of activism. Even I can say you it's a way of fighting against injustices through our pencils and ideas those are our only weapons.
Dimitris Masvoulas: On a different note, many cartoonists have claimed that editorial cartooning is a form of journalism. What is your opinion on this?
Menekse Cam: That's true. Editorial cartooning requires to be a good observer, a good follower of agenda and to make researches.
Dimitris Masvoulas: One of the most important characteristics of editorial cartoons, is that they communicate their message in a rather ambiguous way. This has been the main means of protection for the cartoonists, helping him avoid controversies and unpleasantness. Do you think that the Internet has changed that? Do you think that the message now is less ambiguous?
Menekse Cam: Maybe, but I believe that a good cartoon should have a clear message in a way will not cause any controversy and misunderstanding. Otherwise it may not be able to achieve the aim. Mostly it's dangerous to draw editorial cartoons but if we are not be able to take a risk, the best one is not to draw.
Dimitris Masvoulas: One, more questions, as you said earlier the Internet has allowed cartoonists to reach a broader audience and also communicate with other cartoonists all over the world. However, we saw that recently in your country the government banned Twitter and if I am correct, they also banned YouTube (my roommate is Turkish, so she informs me about all the latest news coming from your country). I was wondering what is the situation with online cartooning?
Menekse Cam: Yes, you are right. The government has banned first Twitter, later YouTube. Now it's in agenda to ban Facebook. But I must say that while the number of Turkish users on twitter were 7 million before the ban, it reached 10 million at the end of the first day of the ban. In the same way the people continued to use YouTube after the ban. We became a kind of a specialist of IT by finding various ways to exceed the bans. (laughs) So the bans don't affect us. Even it inspires us to draw more editorial cartoons and to publish them on the internet. (laughs)
Dimitris Masvoulas: And one final question, what do you think that the Internet offers to a cartoonist who lives in Turkey currently and she is communicating her messages through it?
Menekse Cam: If we consider one-sided mainstream media, and prohibitionist policies of the government, the internet offers us an endless freedom to tell people from all over the world what is going on in Turkey.
Dimitris Masvoulas: And with that, I think that we can finish our interview on a high note! Thank you for giving me the chance to talk to you!
Menekse Cam: It was my pleasure.