In the aftermath of the horrific massacre of cartooning colleagues and journalists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris this week we’ve all had the opportunity to examine our own beliefs and commitment to the bruised and battered concept of free speech. While the kind of satire published in Charlie Hebdo was not too my taste, it often offended me too, the space is necessary as it gives expression to a dark corner of our shared humanity, it ensures that these ideas will either flourish or wilt in the strong light of day. In a word, it is Art. No-one should ever be killed for this. Strongly disagree, yes. Protest against, yes. Boycott, yes. Not ever killed!!!
I gasp at the arrogance and intolerance required to erase the lives of twelve human beings simply because the magazine they worked for insulted or belittled a religion, a race or a deity. I gasp at how our world has become so angry, so polarized, so fraught, with so many displaced, without a voice, oppressed by hardened attitudes, exploited by soft economies. I stop gasping and reach for my pen…
While it has been heartening to see millions come out to support the difficult work of cartoonists by sharing and retweeting, thereby underscoring the visual power and direct transmission of complex ideas through these singular and visceral images, I hope we see local editors putting their money where their mouths are by hiring cartoonists and giving them the space to create powerful work that arouses debate, rattles the gilded cage of the high and mighty, jabs at hypocrisy, unsettles corruption, exposes the motives of those who redirect inquiry elsewhere and ultimately debride the scabs of political correctness off the wounds of society so that exposure to oxygen will ensure deep, proper and lasting healing of the compounded wounds of humanity. When the lives of these 5 cartoonists were ended so brutally on Wednesday, Ted Rall, a trenchant US cartoonist pointed out that there were more full-time cartoonists in that room than there are full-time cartoonists employed by media in the United States. The message being that cartoonists had been gotten rid of by other means in America. Can we learn from this and do better here in South Africa?
RIP cartoonists Stepané Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Georges Wolinski, Phillipe Honore, Bernard Verlhac, economics columnist Bernard Marais, columnist Elsa Cayat, proofreader Mustapha Ourrad, visitor Michel Renaud, maintenance worker Frederic Boisseau, bodyguard Frank Brinsolaro and local police officer Ahmed Merbat, the good people we lost on Wednesday. Charlie Hedbo will rise once more!
©Brandan Eugene Reynolds. Published in the Sunday Independent on 11 January 2014