War is no laughing matter–unless, like Hani Abbas, you use humor to get people to think and feel outside the box. This May, the Syrian-Palestinian from Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Damascus won the top award for caricaturists from Cartoonists for Peace; here he shares with us his inspiration and goals.
Many of your drawings cross “ordinary” peaceful life with life inside a conflict. Why?
I love to mix subjects and events to show the ironic differences between them. Caricature itself is the art of irony. And in it I go farther to create shock, something that will make you stop and stare and think.
Why this genre?
For me a caricature is a message I should send to as many people as I can everywhere. That’s why I avoid writing in my cartoons; I always try to employ a strong idea to address the mind and touch the heart. There are people suffering all kinds of injustice—murder, displacement—and it’s a duty for me and everyone who has the means to convey the voice of these people.
When you finish a good drawing, how do you feel?
I meditate on it for a while after I finish it, and I feel relaxed, like I just finished crying or screaming and poured everything inside me out into this drawing. Then after I publish it on Facebook I start reading followers reactions, and I care a lot about their notes. I always want to know how the idea impacted viewers, and how people understood the caricature’s meaning.
How did you feel when you won the Cartoonists for Peace award?
The moment I first knew I’d won I was full of mixed emotions–disbelief and a deep feeling that my message had arrived. I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking, staring and sometimes crying. When I received the prize on the Wilson Palace platform, I couldn’t see the audience; I was only seeing my martyr friends who were arrested, besieged, and displaced, and giving them the award. After the news of my win was published, I felt the big new responsibility it brought me, and a commitment to keep going further forward.
For more information: Hani Abbas cartoons on Facebook