America in Cartoons is a humorous history lesson

Shreyas Navare and his political cartoons -- Special Arrangement

Shreyas Navare and his political cartoons -- Special Arrangement | Photo Credit: Ruth Dhanaraj

An exhibition of 101 cartoons and caricatures by Shreyas Navare titled ‘America in Cartoons: From Bill to Biden’, chronicling the journey of American politics, spanning five U.S. Presidents from 1998 to 2022, has been organized by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists in Bengaluru.

Shreyas is a New York City-based cartoonist, and co-founder and CEO, Ladderworks Publishing. In an email interview with The Hindu, Shreyas shares his experience of covering U.S. politics as a cartoonist and some of the changes he has observed over the years.

With your cartoons chronicling the journey of U.S. politics, what changes have you seen in terms of politics, elections, leadership and administration?

Given the long list of complex issues in the U.S., drawing editorial cartoons on American politics has given me great joy over 24 years. On the one hand, American politics has grown to become more diverse and inclusive, particularly around gender, race and LGBTQ+ rights. On the other, socio-economic changes, coupled with the rise of social media, have polarised society more than ever. Though power has alternated between the Democrats and the Republicans, both parties have worked equally hard to keep cartoonists like me busy.

How long have you been cartooning?

My journey into the world of cartooning began in primary school, with me sketching the characters of Jungle Book on the walls of our home. A few years later, I came across the cartoons of R. K. Laxman and my life changed completely. Mowgli and his friends made way for the caricatures of my family, classmates, teachers and our politicians. These filled countless sketchbooks and the margins of my school textbooks. I was thrilled when my first cartoon was published in a city supplement of a major national newspaper during high school, and the journey has continued ever since.

Have you ever felt the political climate between 1998-2022 was too ideal for cartoons?

Each of the five U.S. Presidents that I have drawn had something that made them a cartoonist’s delight. However, the one who stood out was of course, President Trump!

Have you seen any changes in terms of how your cartoons have been understood over the years?

Over the past quarter of a century, I have seen the art of cartooning evolve mostly due to the march of technology. The space dedicated to cartoons in print newspapers has shrunk, but social media came in to save the day and enlarged the reach of cartoons to a global scale. The rise of social media, memes and tweets have democratised the art of political satire. I believe cartoonists have stood to benefit from these massive societal changes.

Do you have any serial characters in your cartoons?

I have created four different characters that appear in my editorial cartoons. The first is the Cartoonist’s Brush with emotive eyes and is depicted on the left bottom corner as part of the cartoon’s border. The second is Zero, the wise donkey, who appears on the right bottom corner with a final say on the situation. Zero portrays a range of emotion — joy, grief, anger and sarcasm. My third cartoon character is Tuktuk, the girl child, with alphabets and numbers in different languages depicted on her clothes, to underline the importance of education. Tuktuk asks everyone questions — from her mom to our Prime Minister. She reflects the spirit of our age and is the symbol of hope and change. The last character that appears in the cartoons alongside Tuktuk, is Infinity, a robot that she has created. Together, Zero, Tuktuk, and Infinity represent the march of evolution on Planet Earth, from animal to human to robot.

Q: If you were to chronicle the journey of Indian politics, what is the one situation you would choose to depict?

While in high school, I started drawing cartoons of the then-Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deve Gowda, and IK Gujral followed in quick succession and that period was one of the best times for cartoonists! After 1999, we moved towards stable governments and India has undergone a great transformation in the past two decades. Working as the Editorial Cartoonist for a major Indian newspaper during a significant part of this period, I got a chance to comment on all aspects of Indian life, including politics, through my cartoons.

‘America in Cartoons: From Bill to Biden’, is on display at the Indian Cartoon Gallery till February 19.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 7:26:15 am |