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25983: Hermantin(News)Political cartoonists lighten the mood in troubled times (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Mon, Aug. 15, 2005
Political cartoonists lighten the mood in troubled times
In a country mired in messy politics, Haitian political cartoonists -- some of
whom spend time in South Florida -- load their ink with satire and face
BY TRENTON DANIEL
Using bold colors that belie an otherwise crumbling landscape, cartoonist Marc
''Fréo'' Francois sketches a rakish rendition of Haiti today where leaders
struggle to govern, everybody gets kidnapped and United Nations peacekeepers
are on holiday instead of on patrol.
Political cartoonists such as Francois are trying to make light of a decidedly
bleak situation. Violence and kidnappings threaten fall elections called to
replace an interim government after an armed rebellion toppled President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide last year.
''We take politics so seriously,'' said Francois, 27, whose work appears on a
Miami-based website, sakapfet.com. ``It's a way for people to take a look at it
and laugh about it. We have to make something funny about it.''
There are only a handful of Haitian political cartoonists at work today, and
their caustic commentary -- in English, Haitian Creole and French -- appears
sporadically in Haitian newspapers and more so online. The money they make
won't exactly allow them to quit their day jobs.
But their cartoons don't go unnoticed. They circulate the Internet, elicit
commentary on Haitian talk radio, and have fans awaiting the next target of
''Haiti's not a society where you can poke fun at people in power. They're not
used to it,'' said Michael Emeran, owner of sakapfet.com, which also publishes
the work of Titosh, perhaps Haiti's most prominent cartoonist.
``They get a lot of hate mail. They think you're taking sides. But they are
popular -- I know they are e-mailed everywhere.''
A NEW ERA
The fall of despot Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986 gave rise to a fresh era of
free speech and sharp-witted cartoons -- despite an undercurrent of violence
that can force self-censorship, political caricaturist Charlot Lucien said.
''Freedom of expression is one of the legacies of 1986,'' said Lucien, a Boston
resident who released a collection of his illustrated sketches last year in the
book Our Comedians. ``But at the same time, certain people may be less
receptive to cartoons. I feel that it's less safe now having cartoons target
some individuals, compared to a few years ago.''
He cites the deaths of two Haitian journalists since 2000 who were killed for
their work as a sign that freedom of speech is not exactly welcome.
Today, Lucien says his portraits of Aristide and Guy Philippe, a leader in last
year's revolt, wouldn't pose security problems if he returned to Haiti.
But he wouldn't feel completely at ease, either.
''Yes, I can do them in Haiti,'' said Lucien, 41. ``But I would be more
Francois, who moved to South Florida last year after completing his university
studies in graphic design in Ecuador, casts a wide net. Victims of late include
former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, who served under Aristide; current premier
Gerard Latortue; and the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has been widely
criticized for not doing its job.
In one recent cartoon, Haitians call the U.N. for help. Peacekeepers,
meanwhile, ogle a chesty Haitian hooker at the Little Darling Café. They ask:
``Are you hurt??? Can we help you . . . with cash?!?''
Another cartoon of Francois' shows former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
on a late 2004 visit to Haiti at the National Palace during which gunfire
rattled outside. Powell places a hand over a podium microphone and whispers to
Latortue, the prime minister: ``I'm very disappointed, Mr. Latortue. Those
savages started shooting outside.''
The premier, also covering a microphone, shoots back: ``Don't worry, they watch
too much news on Iraq.''
Francois, who started drawing political cartoons last year, gets only
occasional hate mail.
But William ''Titosh'' McIntosh, who divides his time between Port-au-Prince
and Kendall, is a frequent target.
He says much of it came under the Aristide administration; his cartoons were
noticeably acerbic about Aristide's record.
''I think it's important to laugh when there's so much sadness and misery,''
said McIntosh, 35, who tries to keep a low profile on his trips back home.
Last year, when Haiti was supposed to fete its 200th year of independence from
France but instead saw yet another leader ousted, McIntosh drew a cartoon that
he said triggered many angry replies.
''After 200 years of independence . . . Thank you, Lavalas,'' the caption said,
referring to Aristide's populist party.
Above the caption was the National Palace and two flags -- one French, the
other American. After Aristide's departure, both the French and the United
States dispatched troops to Haiti to pave the way for the U.N. mission.
McIntosh says his critics' disgust makes for good comic material.
In one cartoon, McIntosh drew himself at a computer checking e-mail.
''You better poke fun at your mother instead. I hope you enjoy the money from
184 group [a Haitian opposition group unpopular among Aristide partisans] and
Bush,'' are among the few printable comments.
Then McIntosh turns to the reader: ``Freedom of expression at its best!
Wouldn't you say?''