There used to be a time when newspapers existed in order to inform citizens and inspire debate and comics were for kids. Those days are over. With numerous political graphic novels and comic books published on issues from feminism to the illegal occupation of Palestine to the Jewish holocaust, there is no shortage of political stories told through pictures. Comics can also bridge communication gaps, be used to heal community wounds, and offer humour in the face of difference and conflict. In India, comics – and cartoons – have been on the rise, especially since one Sharad Sharma decided to pick up the pen and with it, form a movement. Delhi-based cartoonist Sharma started World Comics India (WCI), and has been traveling India, Pakistan, Europe and WEst Africa speaking at WCI exhibitions on the power of the picture.
Asia Media and Pakistan's Daily Times recently quoted Sharma as saying that cartoons area “a powerful medium of visual communication,” and that “comics cross all borders of language and creed.” At an exhibition in Islamabad, comics by “common people” told stories about struggles in communities, about overcoming difference (especially those commenting on the political strife between India and Pakistan), about women's rights, economic hardship and entrepreneurialship, about AIDS, and about agriculture, among other topics.
Sharad describes the exhibit: “Most of these comics were the works of uneducated and illiterate Indian people belonging to the poor communities. There were works by some children who had never held pencils in their hands before. Such people had no access to mainstream media and were unable to make their voice heard.”
Artwork by Sharma can be found at powerofculture.nl, where he is quoted in his profile as saying: “I want to address social issues through my cartoons. I want to do more than political caricatures.” With people picking up the pen in communities across India and neighbouring countries to tell stories without technological barriers, Sharma isn't the only one.
The picture to the right is from at the southern tip of India and drawn by Kali Selvan. For a general article on WCI, visit .