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In 2012 when the Bengaluru-based Indian Cartoon Gallery celebrated its fifth anniversary, over 100 of RK Laxman’s sketches, ‘Doodu’s Doodles’ were exhibited. The cartoonist’s nephew, RS Krishnaswamy, helped bring these delightful drawings to the public.

The Indian Cartoon Gallery, established by The Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC), also had an exhibition featuring Liu Qiang. The Chinese cartoonist does not use text but his works carry powerful socio-political messages.

“We are happy to host different types of cartoons including political, pocket, strip, caricature, comics, illustrations and doodle,” says VG Narendra, Managing Trustee, IIC, the man behind the formation of the institute and gallery. “The Indian Cartoon Gallery, now hosting its 158th show, is the only one in India.”

The Indian Institute of Cartoonists, formed in 2001, is backed by a national advisory board of senior cartoonists, and operates in Midford Garden, off MG Road.

“For a long time, despite cartoons being popular, there was no national-level organisation to represent these artists. A body to recognise and showcase them was necessary for the art to flourish. This is where IIC stepped in.” says Narendra, a political cartoonist who retired from Shankar’s Weekly that was run by the late Shankar Pillai, a pioneer of Indian cartooning.

Ashok Kheny, MD of NICE Corridor, an admirer of cartoons, helped the institute get a 5,000 sq ft of gallery space for exhibitions, library and conference hall.

In its inaugural valedictory function in 2001, IIC felicitated leading Indian cartoonists including Mario de Miranda, SK Nadig, SD Phadnis, Pran, Gopulu, Bapu and Yesudasan with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

“Mario, our institute’s chief patron, gave illustrations a boost. He visited Bengaluru often and was the main person to advise and guide me into starting this institute. We received backing from leaders such as Bal Thackery and Abdul Kalam and senior cartoonists.”

In 2008, the IIC started the Maya Kamath Memorial Award competition for excellence in political cartooning and best budding cartoonist. “The competition soon became an international event with exhibitions every month for professional and amateur cartoonists. We have had hundreds of cartoon workshops and trained more than 2,000 persons as of now,” says Narendra.

Display hall and archives

The cartoons are displayed in 2000 square feet hall. “It is free space for the selected cartoonist’s display, the works showcased here will be part of the gallery’s archives,” says Narendra. The IIC’s archives thus include 12,000 original display cartoons and illustrations.

Narendra says, “We have more than 150 of Mario’s works as well as 15 books by him, from his family. Our nearly 2,000 books in English, Kannada, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, are all related to cartoons.”

The books include those by Laxman, Abu Abraham, David Low, Shankaran Kutty, KR Swamy, William Hogarth and Frederick Joss. Shankar Pillai’s Don’t Spare me Shankar as told by Pt Nehru is also in the collection.

The family of Bapu (Sattiraju Lakshmi Narayana) cartoonist, illustrator and Telugu film-maker donated 550 books of cartoons books and American and British publications for the cartoon gallery, as it was the filmmaker’s last wish that the collection reaches IIC.

Prabhakar Rao Bail donated a series of 25 books as well as hundreds of Punch magazines. “Punch was a London publication devoted to cartooning in the days of World War II,” says Narendra.

International works include Rejection Collection, a two-volume series of 70 cartoons from the rejection list of The New Yorker, Leslie Starke’s works and Herman’s cartoon books. “The families of some international cartoonists have been generous,” says Narendra. In London, Frederick Joss’s family donated 25 of his rare books. William Hogarth’s family also donated his original prints done in 1700s. In America, the wife of cartoonist and editor of Witty World, Joe Szabo donated 500 works in book format.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 6:31:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/platform-for-showcasing-cartoons/article26193502.ece

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