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ZAPIRO HONOURED (article first published : 2005-11-7)

The Prince Claus Awards have recognised the artistic and intellectual qualities of organisations and individuals since 1997.They support innovation, engagement and perseverance in the areas of culture and development. The Prince Claus Fund interprets culture in a board sense to encompass all kinds of artistic and intellectual disciplines along with science, media and sport.

Over the years the Prince Claus Fund has chosen a number of themes and this year it has sought examples of humour and satire for its activities and awards. In the Fund’s view, humour and satire are not only innovative in their singularity, but also convey quality and a certain degree of social commitment.

Humour operates on the premise of distance: a critical distance that is taken from the self-evidence of social life. It is this critical distance from the social order that allows for the opening of spaces of creative freedom in which humour is employed to reflect, criticise or offer relief from the tensions of society. By presenting a distorted – yet often an all-too-real – picture, humour alleviates situations that are marked by tragedy, trauma or despair. It can function as an important vehicle for consolation by making life – even temporarily – a little bit more bearable.

Satire is a particular form of humour that confronts, exposes and rebels against the powers that be and can therefore be understood as essentially subversive.

At the recent 2005 Prince Claus Awards, the Principal Prince Claus Award of €100,000 was presented to Zapiro alias Jonathan Shapiro (1958, South Africa), who is one of the best- known cartoonists of South Africa. His work has been widely published in both the national and international media.

Born in Cape Town, Zapiro studied architecture before switching to graphic design and completing his studies with a Fulbright Scholarship at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He then returned to South Africa and worked with Story Circle producing educational comics on HIV/Aids, democracy, and the prevention of child abuse. During the 1980s he began working with anti-apartheid groups and also published cartoons. Zapiro’s graphics prove his ability to expose the truth and his refusal to excuse anyone from public comment regardless of status, race or power. Eschewing computer graphics, he works with pens and Indian ink; his cartoons are drawn free hand.

Zapiro has published nine books of cartoons including The Madiba Years (1996), The ANC Went In 4x4 (2001), and Long Walk to Free Time (2004). He has had several one-man cartoon exhibitions, has judged competitions and mentored young cartoonists. His work can be found regularly on the websites of the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Sowetan. In 2001 he became the first cartoonist to win a category prize (sports) at the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards. In 2003 he was the only African cartoonist to be invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

As part of its new focus on “Humour and Satire”, the Fund granted the award to Zapiro for his ability to make people laugh – even when it is at their own expense.

For more information on Zapiro, visit www.cartoonist.co.za/zapiro.htm




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