Jonathan Shapiro, commonly known as Zapiro, is widely acknowledged as an excellent cartoonist. Some of his more recent material may be a bit lacking, but no doubt it’s hard to be consistently clever when you have to regularly rehash the same issues in South Africa. Occasionally though, he does get it completely wrong.
This week there is an uproar in the Hindu community about Zapiro’s most recent cartoon – one depicting the Lord Ganesha holding piles of cash and a cricket bat whilst overlooking Cricket SA sacrificing its chief executive, Haroon Lorgat.
First, and foremost, the cartoon is wrong because it plainly misrepresents the facts.
It’s wrong, not just inappropriate, to represent India, let alone the sporting body BCCI, by a religious symbol. The news being tackled in the cartoon has to do with sports – it has nothing to do with religion.
Using Ganesha in this cartoon, is about as stupid as putting Pravin Gordhan in the cartoon to represent the BCCI in India – there is some connection to India, sure. But is it relevant? No. Is it appropriate? No.
The second reason is that, consequential to the above, the cartoon unfairly tarnishes the brand of the Hindu religion. It is for this reason that Hindus should rightfully be upset.
While Wonkie would have little to say about tarnishing the brand of Jacob Zuma when Zapiro depicts him with his traveling shower-head, in this case there is no basis for involving religion or Ganesha in the above cartoon. Further, inappropriately depicting Ganesha as angry, vindictive and corrupt is not only disrespectful, but also demonstrates a special level of ignorance about Hinduism.
Since Zapiro is obviously not stupid, we can probably assume that he has enough sense to know that the issue is about cricket, not religion. This begs the question why did he use Ganesha in this cartoon? The three reasons that come to mind are:
(a) he could not come up something appropriate to represent BCCI;
(b) he thought it would be funny;
(c) it would be controversial;
The first option is doubtful – Zapiro has an uncanny ability to tie relevant things together. If he really wanted to, he would have found a clever way with some effort.
If he thought it would be funny, then he should probably realise now that it’s about as funny as it would be if he ran around naked in Klerksdorp, randomly yelling: “All blacks are stupid!”. That act would be equally irrelevant and that claim would also have no basis in fact. Still, you’d probably find a few morons from the Boeremag who’d swear it was the funniest thing. At the very least, one would expect Zapiro to have enough EQ to evaluate whether the cartoon would be unfairly ridiculing a religion, and to weigh that up against his attempt to raise a smirk.
This leaves the remaining “if you can’t make it funny, then at least make it controversial – good for publicity and all that” option. Now make no mistake, Wonkie has no issue with cartoons that involve Ganesha, or religion – Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise. Many are apt, particularly because followers of religions tend to be supremely hypocritical and often deserve to be ridiculed. To use a religious symbol inappropriately to generate eyeballs through controversy though, is tacky. It is something one would expect from second-rate tabloid thinkers, not a clever cartoonist.
Unfortunately, it appears that Zapiro’s response to the Hindu reaction is rather pathetic:
“I’m not out to court controversy [Yeah right!]. I wanted to do a cartoon that was intelligible to the average reader in South Africa. Something that would speak to people and something that showed what people have been feeling. In doing so I look for imagery that I feel will work. I certainly did not set out to offend a group of people.”
Only a complete idiot would believe that this cartoon would not be found offensive – especially since any religious imagery is obviously sensitive, and more so in this case because it completely misrepresents the religion.
Wonkie would love to hear your thoughts on Zapiro’s latest controversial cartoon – please click here to comment!
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