Tanzaniaanse cartoons have a history that can be traced back to the work of pioneering artists such as Christian Gregory with his Chakubanga cartoons in Uhuru newspaper in the 1970's and 80's, and Philip Ndunguru in the early 80's. Outspokenly political cartoons are of more recent date.
In the past decade, the art of cartoons and comics has really taken off in Tanzania. At present there are dozens of cartoonists, some of whom are well known throughout the country. From the 1960's on, a number of artists prepared the way, and their names are cited by today's artists as essential influences (also see the excellent history of cartoons in Tanzania at the Worldcomics website).
Cartoon (right): If you register for voting, don't forget to vote for me! If you do, I will make sure it will rain every day.
- We are tired of those false promises!
(Christian Gregory, in Uhuru of 14 August 1980)
Among the early cartoon characters was Chakubanga, drawn by Christian Gregory for Uhuru newspaper from 1967 on. Stylistically, the cartoons of Philip Ndunguru made a big impact. The characters he created, such as Madenge, Komredi Kipepe and Lodi Lofa, live on in today's humour comic magazines. When he passed away in 1986, other artists were needed to draw in Ndunguru's style. That's where Ibra Radi Washokera came up, and after him John Kaduma.
Initially, Sani controlled the market of humour mags but when Kaduma switched to Bongo magazine, competition intensified. In the mid 90's, Kaduma moved again to Tabasamu. By the time he died, all the comic magazines had come to prefer the new Tanzanian style of drawing. Other popular cartoon artists that emerged in the 80's and 90's include Gayo, whose Kingo cartoon strip became quite popular throughout East Africa.
Cartoon (left): This is the ninth day that I haven't drunk, it seems like I am no longer an alcoholic.
- Without a doubt you were simply broke all the time! I know this...
(Christian Gregory, in Uhuru of 5 May 1980)
THE AGE OF POLITICAL CARTOONS
Ours is to caricature people, politicians especially. But this doesn't mean that government officers should come after us with big sticks. Nor should newspapers editors manipulate us
- Kenyan cartoonist Maddo (Paul Kelemba)
In the late 90's, the comic magazines and newspapers publishing cartoons got fresh company from the cartoon weeklies of Sanifu, Risasi and others styled on the same ideas. They were instant hits and created a new outlet for the expressions of more openly political cartoonists such as Masoud Kipanya, Kijasti and Fred Halla. Their views didn't go unnoticed: both their audience and the subjects of their cartoons agreed that cartoons present a powerful message.
Masoud explains how the opportunities for cartoonists changed:
"Let me say 5, 6, 7 years back we used to have a lot of cartoon publications. We started with Sanifu, after that a lot of newspapers came up. At Business Times we had Sanifu but it was published nearly every day. And by then a lot of artists had a place to show their skills, to air our views.
By then we were doing political cartoons. The government took us as these people are just playing, you see. But then the impact started to be seen. Because cartoonists became the voice of the poor people. We predicted things, spoke to the politicians, we told them things, we made them understand what is happening, what they were supposed to do as politicians, as leaders.
For the past 10 years I have seen the impact, I got feedback from the people saying that Massoud you are doing great, at least we see you are talking on our behalf. People seem to understand, the politicians sometimes also change, whenever they look at these artworks they feel ashamed to be drawn. So some say: we are not gonna [cause] any problems, because otherwise I will be punished in the newspapers. So I think the impact has been there and I think it will always be there.
As cartoons became more popular, some cartoonists were faced with restricted artistic freedom. Mickey recalls: "I used to work with Business Times and Majira newspaper in the past and I used to freelance as a cartoonist. Professionally I was not an artist, but out of interest, when Sanifu was first published inside Majira newspaper - it used to be published once a week on Sunday. In the first four issues I used to take part in the publication. We were quite free to express ourselves. But these days we are too limited. And this is because the truth is always powerful. Even if someone has got maybe economical or political power, but the truth is more power[ful] than that. So you find that cartoonists are taken as people who are threatening those people who are abusing power. And when it comes to justice they say that all people are equal before justice there is fairness. But there are some people who are above the law."
The cartoonists who have gathered in PACT have good hope that the internet will help them to freely discuss matters that can't be discussed in the Tanzanian papers. As Masoud puts it: "There are so many things that are taking place in the world right now, in Tanzania and the world. I'd like to talk about these things, Nathan, Mickey and Fred as well and the rest of the cartoonists. To me at least I have a space though I am being censored. But some of these people don't have a place where they can express for the benefit of society."
Partly based on interviews with Fred Halla, April 2003, and with Masoud Kipanya and Mickey, February 2002