Laughing our way into 2018, please God

zapiro hasta la guptaReview: Vivien Horler

Hasta la Gupta, Baby! by Zapiro (Jacana)

Hadeda La Land – A new Madame & Eve collection, by Stephen Francis & Rico

When I was a child we always gave my dad a Giles collection for Christmas. And then there’d be arguments after the big lunch as to who got to look at it first. Dad didn’t always win.

There’s no dad any more, nor is there Giles (although sometimes you find a dusty old collection in a beach house, and smile as you page through them, remembering political events of decades ago.)

madame & eve hadedaBut in South Africa we have jolly fine substitutes from our top cartoonists, Zapiro and Stephen Francis & Rico, and there’s nothing like revisiting the tough political events of the year with a sugar-coating of laughter.

In his book Penpricks, a serious look at South African political cartoons, author and writer Ken Vernon said there could be no better guide to the country’s complicated and convoluted political history than its mixed bag of political cartoonists.

Because their work is supposedly not “serious”, writes Vernon, they can say things “that would land a journalist in court for libel quicker than it takes to scribble a moustache on an election poster”.

“At the same time, the best cartoonists often possess an instinctive ability – almost to the point of clairvoyance – to cut directly to the heart of a subject with just a few deft strokes of the pen that make newspaper cartoons an ideal way to gain a quick understanding of a country, its history, its character, its prejudices, as well as the role of newspapers in reflecting the country.”

That could be a perfect description of Zapiro’s work. This latest collection covers the period between October 2016 and September 2017, and includes cartoons from the Daily Maverick, the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and the sadly now defunct little Times.

And what a year it’s been. We kept thinking Jacob Zuma would go, we watched in astonishment as Helen Zille dug her own grave, we saw Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas given the boot, Trump being Trump, the Bell Pottinger and KPMG debacle, the Gupta Leaks, the not-ANC presidential election campaigns, the Saxonwold Shebeen, the Grace Mugabe extension cord saga…

Zapiro has brought his sharp pen, his keen eye and his sheer brilliance to comment on all of this so that we are reminded, we are startled, we are appalled, and we are vastly amused.

In his book Vernon specifically excluded the Madame & Eve ouvre from his consideration, saying it was a cartoon strip rather than a newspaper’s editorial cartoon, but as loyal fans know, Stephen Francis & Rico make telling political comments all the time.

This collection thinks back to the various coalition discussions in local governments, with Thandi saying her idea of a successful coalition is a gin and tonic, or her idea of a dangerous precedent is Jacob Zuma. (And so say all of us.) Then there are the clever locally themed Mother Goose rhymes: “Hlaudi be nimble/ Hlaudi be quick/ Please someone give Hlaudi/ a good swift kick!” or the one featuring the Gupta brothers: “Three scared mice! See how they run! They all ran to the High Court/ to fight the capture of State report… Three scared mice.”

These are two great collections. If you want to look back at the year (although given the year we’ve had I’m not sure why you would) then these two books are the best way to do it.

  • Penpricks – the drawing of South Africa’s political battlelines, by Ken Vernon (The Spearhead Press, 2000)







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *