Words appear to reign supreme in print journalism. Black print fills the papers, exploding day after day with commentaries about the world of politics, disasters, drunkenness and drama. This overabundance of words spilling out of the daily paper is voraciously consumed, in an attempt to peel away the layers from the incomprehensible foibles of our leaders. But the word-weary among us yearn for an alternative, which is why there is the editorial cartoon.
Wittily using symbols as tools of satire, the cartoonist provides biting commentary on politics and politicians, making us chuckle at the powers that be, and also at ourselves. Moreover, in a region as linguistically diverse as Southasia, the cartoon can cross boundaries, political and language; the same set of strokes can communicate as easily with Hindi, Urdu and Bangla readers as with Nepali, Sinhala or Pashto speakers. And yet, despite its analytical depth and the universality of its visual language, the intricacies of the craft of cartooning in Southasia remain relatively unexplained and undocumented.
In this issue, we attempt to remedy this deficiency. These stories all emerge from a range of recent Himal Southasian undertakings: the Southasia Cartoon Congress, the first-of-its-kind meeting of editorial cartoonists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; two exhibitions – a retrospective of the renowned cartoonist Abu Abraham and an exhibition of the works of five well-known Nepali cartoonists; and an international cartoon competition on the theme “Dramatic Divide: The distance between the powerful and the powerless”. Each story is a celebration of the power of symbolism, and the universality of visual satire.