I was very disappointed in many of my fellow cartoonist’s attempts to comment on the subject of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s declaration of sweeping executive powers. Too lazy or uncreative to come up with metaphors of their own, they were apparently content to just copy the criticisms of the Egyptian people, who derisively called their first post-Arab Spring President and latest wannabe-dictator a “Pharaoh.”
While there’s nothing wrong with borrowing a basic idea from the wider cultural narrative like that, I do feel it’s an artist’s responsibility to either portray the imagery in a uniquely eloquent manner, or convey more pointed criticisms through the choice of specific details. Otherwise, what’s the point? You’re just barking the same thing as everybody else, while adding no thoughts or interpretations of your own.
Unfortunately, most of the cartoonists I saw jumping on the “Pharaoh” bandwagon did neither, merely dressing Morsi up like King Tut or
drawing poorly-photoshopping a pyramid, and leaving it at that.
It’s not like Egyptian history, myth, and culture are rich in imagery and symbolism, huh??
I try to stay above such hack behavior, so I decided to avoid running the “Pharaoh” metaphor any further into the ground by seeing if I could come up with something completely different. Instead of focusing on Morsi, I chose to make a comment with more of an historical context; about how democracy in Egypt has seemingly been just on the horizon at many points over the last 50 or 60 years, but promised reforms have usually turned out, ultimately, to be illusory.
That certainly appears to be the case in this latest episode, anyway.