- Political cartoons, when well done, are a form of picture journalism that cannot only amuse and make us laugh, but also provide us with powerful social messages and commentary.
- Analysing and trying to understand a political cartoon can hone your critical thinking skills and enhance your political comprehension.
Yesterday’s cartoon on page 14 depicts an angry Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko remonstrating in front of a TV camera labelled “Media”.
He’s dressed in a black T-shirt, black baseball cap and dark glasses. He’s also wearing a golden stud earring in his right ear, which matches in colour the embroidery on his T-shirt, which covers his potbelly.
He cuts a figure of a pompous loudmouth. There is movement and energy in his stance. His left arm is swinging, accompanied by the words “SLAP SLAP SLAP SLAP”, all in capital letters.
This is not a “Slap Slap Slap Clap Clap Clap” dance performed by children. The “slaps” are delivered with the back of his powerfully built arm. The speech bubble says: “It’s the cartel’s fault....”
The NTV video of the press conference that seems to have inspired the cartoon is headlined, “Sonko blames ‘City Hall’ for his woes”.
In the video, Sonko is seen wearing clear glasses and is minus the golden stud earring. But he’s wearing a ‘bling-bling’ chain. He cuts a figure of a cornered man who has to explain himself.
In the cartoon, Sonko is lambasting “the cartels”. Why does he use the back slap instead of striking with the open palm of his hand?
Which is more powerful? What message is cartoonist Victor Ndula communicating?
Political cartoons, when well done, are a form of picture journalism that cannot only amuse and make us laugh, but also provide us with powerful social messages and commentary.
Because they are mainly visuals with little or no text, political cartoons appear to require fewer reading skills.
But this is not always true. Often, the full meaning of a well-done cartoon can be too subtle for the ordinary newspaper reader to understand.
In fact, some studies suggest significant percentages of readers fail to understand the political cartoons in their newspaper.
To fully understand a well-done but complex cartoon, one needs to have some knowledge of the relevant background and current events on which the cartoon is based.
One also needs to have an understanding of the basic techniques used by cartoonists to communicate.