Cartoons in the COVID-19 Era

Safaa Odah of the Palestinian Territories

Superheros are Real by Sameh Samir of Egypt –

Political cartoons can be biting or amusing, and in a moment of crisis they can illustrate a simple, persuasive point with no words at all. It is a form of satire that gives insight into the events and issues happening all around us. Amid a global pandemic, when there is information everywhere, using a picture may be more poignant than a lengthy paragraph and political cartoons grab attention and make the reader pay head.

Safaa Odah of the Palestinian Territories

So how are cartoonists in the Middle East depicting the coronavirus in their work? Meridian administered a U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the Fall of 2019 for seven cartoonists from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories and Saudi Arabia. Art is an instrument used in overcoming barriers to communication and enhancing cultural diplomacy. These artists have been using their skills to raise awareness and make important points about the impact of the virus in their countries and around the world.

For these IVLP alumni, their exchange program left a lasting impact.

Corona by Nawaf AlMulla of Bahrain – @nawaftton

Mr. Nawaf Al-Mulla of Bahrain said that the experience represented a “qualitative leap in [his] working life” and that the program deepened his appreciation of this art and its effect on society. Ms. Safaa Odah of the Palestinian Territories commented that “political cartooning is of great importance as an effective and influential element that has an impact on people at the local level.”  Since returning home, they have expanded their work and continued to use their art to comment on politics and society.

The work of these cartoonists speaks for itself, conveying important insights while drawing parallels with other issues to depict how the current global pandemic is being felt and experienced in their respective countries and around the world. This form of expression and creativity increases understanding and reveals shared values and experiences. Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Read more about this at the project page located here.

Written by Mark Rebstock, Vice President of External Relations in the Professional Exchanges Division at Meridian International Center.