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Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line The History and Impact of Political Cartooning in Kenya 1 Drawing the Line

The History and Impact of Political Cartooning in Kenya

Drawing the Line

The history and impact of cartooning in Kenya

Published by:

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), P.O. Box 14932, Nairobi, Kenya. Peponi Plaza, Peponi Rd. Telefax: +254-020-3748338/9 Email:


Association of East African Cartoonists(KATUNI) P.O. Box 3613-00200, Nairobi, Kenya. Email:

(c) Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) (C) Association of East african Cartoonists (KATUNI)


April 2004

Table of Contents





Section One A brief history of Political Cartoons


Role of Catoonists


Section Two History of cartooning in Kenya


Early Cartoons


Juha Kalulu


Terry Hirst and Joe Magazine


Resident Foreign Cartoonists


Local Cartoonists


The Challenges of Cartooning


The Future


Section Three

The Study






Directory of Local Cartoonists


5 Drawing the Line


Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Kenya Office


By P.L.O. Lumumba

Secretary, Constitution Review Commission of Kenya

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” has never been so true as in the world of cartoons. This justifies the universal popularity of cartoons as the lingua franca of satire. Though cartooning as a medium of communication and expression is a relatively new phenomenon in Kenya, many a newspaper reader has become so addicted to editorial and thematic cartoon strips that a newspaper without either is not considered a worthy buy. Messages that cannot be conveyed in words for sensitivity, political correctness or prejudice are effectively communicated through cartoons. In a nutshell, cartoons have become the sugar coating for the bitter but necessary message. We appreciate the now settled role of cartoons and their creators as the latter day conscience of the nation. Kudos to the Association of East African Cartoonist (KATUNI) for immortalizing the history of cartoons in the written word! Let this initiative be not a seasonal oasis in a desert of information but a modest beginning of what will be a vast ocean

of ‘Katunist’ message for present and future generations.


A Brief History of Political Cartoons

Knife-edged and salient, there is no simpler or more effective form of journalism than the editorial or political cartoon. The message – usually critical – is instantaneous, and often funny.

Political cartoons (from cartone, the Italian word for “pasteboard.”*) are for the most part composed of two elements: caricature, which parodies the individual, and allusion, which creates the situation or context into which the individual is placed. Caricature as a Western discipline goes back to Leonardo da Vinci’s artistic explorations of “the ideal type of deformity”— the grotesque— which he used to better understand the concept of ideal beauty. Over time, the principles of form established in part by Leonardo had become so ingrained into the method of portraiture that artists like Agostino and Annibale Carracci rebelled against them. Intended to be lighthearted satires, their caricaturas were, in essence, “counter-art”.

* The Italian masters used pasteboard for rough drawings (cartoni), which were especially useful in preparing frescoes and tapestries. The word did not come to mean “an amusing sketch” until the 1840s when Prince Albert, who wanted to


Drawing the Line

decorate the walls of the new Houses of Parliament in London with frescoes, opened a competition for their design. The

cartoons for the frescoes, some of them absurd in their attempts to appear heroic, were exhibited in 1843 and parodied shortly thereafter in the English magazine Punch, thus earning the word its present meaning.

The sketch of “A Captain of Pope Urban VIII” is representative of the new genre in that it is a quick, impressionistic drawing that exaggerates prominent physical characteristics to humourous effect. At its best, it brings out the subject’s inner self in a kind of physiognomical satire and seems to be a comment on some facet of the Captain’s masculinity. Caricaturas became popular with collectors, but they perceived the “fanciful exercises” as curiosities rather than viable artistic productions. As a result, they were not displayed publicly and so one of the earliest modes of graphic satire remained in the parlour and drawing room. While caricature originated around the Mediterranean, cartoons of a more editorial nature developed in a chillier climate. The Protestant Reformation began in Germany, and made extensive use of visual propaganda; the success of both Martin Luther’s socio-religious reforms and the discipline of political cartooning depended on a level of civilisation neither too primitive nor too advanced. A merchant class had emerged to occupy positions of leadership within the growing villages and towns, which meant that a core of people existed who would respond

to Luther’s invectives and be economically capable of resisting the all-powerful Catholic Church. With regard to the physical requirements of graphic art, both woodcutting and metal engraving had become established trades, with many artists and draughtsmen sympathetic to the cause. Finally, the factor which probably influenced the rise of cartoons more than any other cultural condition was a high illiteracy rate. Luther recognised that the support of an increasingly more powerful middle class was crucial to the success of his reforms, but in order to lead a truly popular movement he would need the sheer weight of the peasantry’s numbers. The distribution of simple broadsheet posters or illustrated pamphlets throughout population centres proved to be an effective strategy because the images would reach a large amount of people and enjoy the greatest possible amount of comprehension. As Barry Burden, assistant professor of government at Harvard University, puts it, “Satire was once the way for illiterate people to make sense of what was going on in politics.” An excellent example of Luther’s use of visual protest is found in two woodcuts from the pamphlet “Passional Christi und

Antichristi”, originally drawn by Lucas Cranach the Elder. These two images contrast the actions of Jesus with those of the Church hierarchy. The hegemony of religion at the time ensured that when someone drew a Biblical episode like that of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple, everyone would recognise it.The artist juxtaposed the first scene with a contemporary tableau that many people would also understand:

the Pope writes indulgences while common folk pay their hard earned money in tribute. The two pictures clearly intend to raise public consciousness by illustrating the premise that changes must be made within the Church for life to ever become more Christlike. “Passional Christi und Antichristi” also demonstrates the artist’s use of the second element of political cartoons-- the context of a widely-recognised story or setting— to get his point across. As time went on, Germanic art assimilated the Italian caricatura and established the conventions practiced on a wide basis by cartoonists of the 18th Century. The cartoon became a substantial medium of commentary which took serious issues and presented them in a manner which was not only amusing,

and therefore more socially acceptable, but also designed to affect the viewer’s opinion. As Western culture diversified from its original religious foundation, new subjects became available for discussion and subsequent ridicule; as such the appeal and influence of cartoons on public life grew in proportion. The American political cartoon was born in Philadelphia. This is sometimes credited to Benjamin Franklin for his famed Join or Die of 1974, showing a severed snake, its separate parts labeled as colonies. But four copperplate images, a 1764–65 series, are considered the true beginning of the tradition in their comic-but-cutting depiction of a political event, and particularly, of Franklin himself. The series inflamed tempers during the 1764 elections and ultimately cost Franklin his seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly, the only election he was ever to lose. In the 18th Century the cartoonists of England, Russia, Germany, Spain, and the United States generally declared satirical war on Napoleon, and so effective were they that Napoleon sent notes to the government of England requesting their suppression, equating them with murderers. By the mid-19th century, editorial cartoons had become regular

features in American newspapers, and were soon followed by sports cartoons and humourous cartoons. The effect of political cartoons on public opinion was amply demonstrated with the demise of William Tweed, a New York politician in the 1870s, largely caused by the attention paid to him by cartoonist Thomas Nast. Tweed’s exasperated response speaks to the power of Nast’s cartoons. He demanded of his henchmen,“Stop them damned pictures. I don’t care what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!” In the 20th Century, the influence of cartoons was such that Hitler and Stalin surrounded themselves with large groups of “pocket” cartoonists who praised them extravagantly. They also destroyed or exiled cartoonists critical of them. During the “Battle for Britain” Englishman David Low, considered the century’s greatest cartoonist, was put on Hitler’s “death list.” In recent years, 29 countries have jailed or otherwise punished newspaper cartoonists, according to the Cartoonist Relief Network which is dedicated to the protection of the rights of

editorial cartoonists.

The role of cartoonists As we have seen, for half a millenium cartoonists have exposed abuses of power, the corruption of government and the hypocrisy of society. Cartoons provide a running commentary on events, people, attitudes and preoccupations, and reflect momentary shifts in public sentiment. According to one theory, as reported by Ray Morris of York University, cartooning depends on the political system. In totalitarian regimes the artist is forced to praise the system and denounce its enemies. In authoritarian regimes some dissent is allowed, and when the regimes become brittle cartoonists mercilessly expose their rigid foolishness. In a Western (style) democracy during peace-time, cartoonists are watchdogs, keeping power-holders honest and accountable. “One might then generalise that cartoonists focus on office-holders and aspirants whom the public can hope to defeat in an election or a popular uprising. Cartoons focus overwhelmingly on the leaders of the party in power. Other government and business figures are in the minority.” According to Dr. Robert Russell, Director of Cartoonists Relief Network and a 30-year veteran of international community

development, human rights and humanitarian assistance “the editorial cartoonist in most developing countries continues to be an important and highly efficient point of national political

and policy debate.” He adds, “ As I constantly searched for the most efficient and effective point of democratic intervention when assigned to small Third World countries where budgets

for social development were so very small

street could never tell me the name of any editorial writer in their local press, but even the illiterate population always knew who their favorite editorial cartoonist was.”

Cynthia Bailey Lee states in ‘A Semiotic Analysis of Political Cartoons’, a study of the visual images of presidential candidates portrayed in the editorial cartoons in the 2000 US presidential

election campaign, “political cartoons are

society to understand and make judgments about the extremely complex interactions at work in political systems.” Finally, US cartoonist Herb Block, who coined the term “Mc- Carthyism” and attacked the infamous anti-communist

investigations of that era notes in his essay, “The Cartoon”:

“Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression

role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning

is often the cutting edge of that criticism.”

successful in helping

the man on the

If the prime

15 Drawing the Line

Section One

The historical development of cartooning in Kenya

The history of journalism and cartooning in Kenya are closely intertwined. It is near impossible to tell the story of cartooning without going back, even if only referentially, to that of journalism. While cartooning may be riding on the back of journalism today, it can be argued that in Africa, the history of this art would simply dwarf that of journalism if the former were documented, for caricaturing is much older than journalism.

The rocks of Africa are host to millions of images caricatured on them, literally across the continent. These go back in time to about 12,000 years. What makes the connection between these and later caricaturing is occasional similarity between the way people are caricatured on the rocks and some of the early cartoons that appear, for instance, in the Karonga Kronikal. Journalism in Kenya is a little over a century old, often traced back to the founding of the East African Standard in 1902. It is a story that can be told through the prism of a triple-M

heritage: missionaries, mercenaries, and merchants, pretty much in that order. The missionaries came, pioneered literacy and publication; the mercenaries followed and furthered the course of journalism through colonial government sponsored publications, and finally the merchants took over, a trend that began with the founding of Kenya’s oldest newspaper and in spite of Africa’s history of government control of the media, has remained largely true in the case of Kenya. Whether early missionary sponsored newspapers carried any caricatures is not clear since there are no records to that effect and the copies of theses publications have since disappeared into the mist of time. But the commercial papers, particularly those identified with the colonial government, soon were carrying syndicated cartoons, for the pleasure of the civil servants.

Early Cartoons The earliest reference to cartoons in East Africa chronicles the circulation of caricatures among soldiers fighting in World War I. According to Melvin E. Page, in an article titled “With Jannie

in the Jungle: European Humour in an East African Campaign” published in The International Journal of African Historical Studies in 1981, “Cartoons and anecdotes circulated throughout East Africa; at least one humour magazine, the Karonga Kronikal, was created for and by the troops.” The purposes of the Kronikal and other sources of humour were to boost the morale of the soldiers and to provide an outlet for their frustrations. Cartoons also helped define the enemy, by depicting German soldiers comically, such as in positions impersonating African women or as cowards hiding behind African men. In comparing the war cartoons in Europe and those in East Africa, Page writes: “The enemy in Europe was frequently painted in horrific terms, a Teutonic barbarian cruelly smashing the innocent and righteous. In East Africa, though, he was much more amusing.” These cartoons in East Africa, however, seldom featured Africans as subjects. What one can easily decipher is the typical colonial stereotyping of the Africans then prevalent. Page observes: “Even in situations where the figure of the German was not present, the structure of the humour, rather than the butt of the joke, often revealed this attitude toward

Africans.” The Kronikal, edited by Phillip Mitchell (who was later to serve as, among other positions, the colonial governor of Kenya) and Edmund Richards (later governor of Basutoland and Nyasaland), was published in Livingstonia Mission in Nyasaland (now known as Malawi). The mission was headed by a missionary, Robert Laws, who, in setting the guidelines under which the paper was to be published, seemed to have preferred Britain’s Punch, as a model.

Juha Kalulu, the First Indigenous Cartoon Indigenous cartoons in Kenya started with E.G. Gitau about 1950. A former electrician, Gitau came into cartooning literally by accident. He had fallen off the roof of a building while laying wires, in the process breaking his arms. No longer able to handle heavy objects, Gitau discovered his artistic talent and started to draw. The cartoon strip that he launched then, “Juha Kalulu” still runs today. “Juha Kalulu” draws from two African languages: “Juha” being Kiswahili for a clown and “Kalulu” being Nyanja (spoken in

Malawi) for hare. The strip features a man and his constant companion, a dog. The main character is a wanderer roaming the countryside often on missions that would be befitting a clown. The comic strip, Kenya’s longest running, first appeared in Tazama. When Tazama folded, Gitau moved the strip to Baraza, another Swahili newspaper. While Gitau drew for these newspapers, he also contributed cartoons to some vernacular ones. Baraza (founded in 1939) folded just shortly before independence. Gitau then, in 1960, moved his strip to Taifa, launched a year earlier as a weekly, later to become a daily. According to Gitau, the only other cartoonist during this early period was William Agutu. When other newspapers carried cartoons, if they were not from Agutu or Gitau, then they were syndicated. “Juha Kalulu” thus enjoyed monopoly until the emergence of Terry Hirst in the mid-1970s.

Terry Hirst and Joe Magazine Terry Hirst was the first political cartoonist in Kenya. He closed the decade of the seventies and opened up the eighties with his Friday feature at the Daily Nation which fast gained a following.

He specialised in depicting social scenes and the then quiet political life in rural areas. He teamed up with Hillary Ng’weno in the early 1970s to launch Joe Magazine, a lively monthly magazine featuring the character “Joe” through whose eyes the reader was exposed to a variety of social issues. Unlike “Juha Kalulu” which never cared for social issues or politics, Joe did not shy away from the political. The realism of Joe was infectious; he almost had a life of his own. Unlike characters in other cartoons, who are obviously fictional, Joe gave the impression that he was a next-door neighbour. If something affected ordinary people, Joe could be depended upon to speak on your behalf, and chances were that his views would pretty much represent what you would have said. Though the magazine ran for only about three years, Joe provided the inspiration for many of the cartoonists who followed. Besides serving as a role model, Hirst unlocked the potential of cartoons to discuss any issue. When the magazine ceased publication, it was as if the country had lost a national celebrity. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Joe is still remembered fondly on Nairobi streets.

Ng’weno later founded the weekly Nairobi Times newspaper (later to be sold to KANU and re-christened Kenya Times), issued every Sunday, and The Weekly Review, a weekly news magazine issued every Friday. Nairobi Times became a launch pad for budding cartoonists. After the collapse of Joe, Hirst was seldom heard of in the cartoon world.

Resident Foreign Cartoonists The cartoonists who immediately followed Joe were from outside Kenya. Three were particularly influential: Tanzanian Philip Ndunguru, Ugandan James Tumisiime and Ghanaian Frank Odoi. Ndunguru joined Kenya Times in 1983, where he introduced “Kazibure”, which became a hit with readers as a social comic strip. “Kazibure” literally means “of no use” and the main character spent time essentially living up to the title. The strip connected to the social issues that had been Hirst’s forte. Sadly, Ndunguru died in March 1986 at only 24. James Tumisiime, an agricultural economist, joined the Daily Nation where, besides drawing political cartoons, he wrote humour. When Hilary Ng’weno founded Nairobi Times

Tumisiime became an economics correspondent and later business editor; he continued with the paper even after KANU acquired it in 1982 and changed the name to Kenya Times. At the Times Tumisiime drew cartoons as well. One of his most popular characters was “Bogi Benda” who is probably best described as an African “Andy Capp”. Tumisiime published two comic books while still in Kenya. In 1986, he moved back to Uganda where he has been involved in many pursuits including serving in the Ugandan cabinet. “Kazibure” and “Bogi Benda”, while providing continuity and acting as an important bridge, still pale in comparison with the robust environment that Hirst set in Joe. Ghanaian born Frank Odoi started drawing political cartoons for the Nation in 1979. Odoi, who now produces a series of weekly comic strips, is one of the most socially and politically conscious, and longest active cartoonists on the Kenyan scene. His characters tend to be much more mature and his themes more complex, reflective and intended for adult readership, particularly in the comic strips, “The Mermaid of Motaba” and “Golgoti”. His other columns include “Akokhan”, “Radi”,

“Living World”, “Checkmate,” and “Apex”. Odoi’s work has been published broadly in the Nordic countries and throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Like Hirst, Odoi, Tumisiime and Ndunguru have served as role models for later Kenyan cartoonists.

Local Cartoonists About the same time Odoi was working at the Daily Nation, local cartoonists begun to make their presence felt. One of the first was Koskei Kirui whose work was published in the East African Standard. However, Koskei was to remain largely a commentator on social subjects. Paul “Madd” Kelemba was the first indigenous political cartoonist to reach national prominence. Madd joined the Nation in 1986 as the country’s first full time staff editorial cartoonist. Prior to that, he had been caricaturing for in- house magazines and publications in Mombasa on the Kenyan Coast. At the Nation, Madd was primarily an op-ed cartoonist focusing on political and social issues. According to Sunday Nation editor John Agunda, “Maddo was as

naughty as ever.” He provides the clearest connection to Hirst, as his cartoons and themes have a remarkable semblance to those in Joe. During the 1980’s when the first local editorial cartoons were printed in the local dailies, the prevailing political climate discouraged cartoonists from exploring sensitive subjects. For example, while one could caricature ministers and provincial commissioners, cartooning the President was out of the question, at least in the formal media. There were such drawings in the informal publications but these were largely underground papers with limited circulation, such as the clandestine press of the University of Nairobi. With the agitation for political change in the late 1980s and early 1990s, cartoonists became bolder and Madd is credited with being the first to caricature the then President Daniel Arap Moi. Though the presidential caricature has since become commonplace in Kenyan cartoons, back then it was revolutionary. As newspapers recognised the important contribution cartoonists could make, more opportunities opened up. James “Kham” Kamawira was hired as the main editorial cartoonist

for Kenya Times, after which, he worked briefly, still as a cartoonist, for the East African Chronicles, before settling in at the Standard. When Madd moved to the Standard, Tanzanian Godfrey “Gado” Mwampembwa replaced him at the Nation and was to become one of Africa’s most internationally celebrated cartoonists. Gado’s works have appeared in a number of publications such as New African in the UK; Courier International and Le Monde both in France; the Financial Mail and New Nation both in South Africa; Washington Times, Des Standard of Belgium, and Japan Times. Today, most local dailies have more than one staff cartoonist on their payrolls. For example, the Nation has a pool of six cartoonists. The editorial cartoon is a permanent feature of editorial pages and the popularity of the composite cartoon commentary pioneered by Madd’s “It’s a Madd Madd World” is testimony to local cartoonists’ talents as social and political commentators.

The Challenges of Cartooning One of the challenges that Kenyan cartoonists face is finding sufficient media through which to expose their work and exploit their talent. With only four newspapers, of which only two, the Nation and the East African Standard are truly mass newspapers, the challenge for any budding cartoonist is formidable. Although the other two dailies, Kenya Times and People, are also mass oriented, their combined circulation is still less than that of the Standard. The two main dailies can use only a limited number of cartoonists. At the moment, the Nation Group has about six cartoonists but only a few of them publish regularly. Hardly any of the country’s numerous magazines use cartoons. The efforts by Communication Artists Limited (CAL), a company founded by four of the leading cartoonists, have led to the launching of several cartoon-based publications including The African Illustrated, and Penknife, all of which have ceased publication after a limited number of issues. (Penknife though has been resurrected as an inser in the Sunday Standard). Kenyan cartoonists have an identity crisis — whether they are

an independent profession or part of journalism. Though they definitely consider themselves journalists and, according to its Secretary-General Ezekiel Mutua, are recognized as such by

the Kenya Union of Journalists, they feel that the specific title of “Cartoonist” is not well regarded. The problem that figures topmost in cartoonists’ minds, is that of editorial censorship. Paul “Madd” Kelemba is concerned

down cartoon commentary

development and push it back to where it was at the outset thirty years ago.” Though Kenyan cartoonists nowadays enjoy a relatively large degree of freedom and the fact that no cartoonist has been charged or sued in court is testimony to this, they are alert to any developments that may endanger this freedom. For example when in 2002 Parliament enacted a law curtailing press freedoms, cartoonists organised a workshop to discuss the effect on their work and to lobby for the law’s repeal. Another worry is the occasional threatening phone call from individuals who do not like the cartoonist’s portrayal of them. All top cartoonists have reported receiving such calls at one time or another.

that “editors will


The Future Cartoonists are coming together to tackle some of these difficulties. In addition to forming commercial entities such as CAL, they have established the Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI) which was set up in 1998. KATUNI has partnered with organisations such as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in various projects including launching a website,, where works of cartoonists are displayed. The website is a boon to both established and less known cartoonists. KATUNI has also made a concerted effort to improve local cartooning skills through workshops and seminars. The association has also strived to keep cartooning relevant by organising local and international cartoon exhibitions on issues such as terrorism and the Constitution review process. Where is cartooning going in Kenya? Given the reception and development that cartoons have undergone in the last 20 years, there future of cartoons is perceived as bright. Cartoon use in the traditional media is on the rise and opportunities have been identified in other fields. An increase is also perceived in demand

for comic books/magazines, especially among young children. More ways to depict cartoons are evolving as Kenyans move from the newspapers to books and even the internet in search of cartoons. A study carried out by KATUNI* showed that a significant 36% of the populace came into contact with cartoons through TV. This has compelled many cartoonists to view animation as a means of widening the reach of their works. And they feel that more young people are expressing interest in taking up cartooning as a profession. With the efforts of KATUNI, many feel it won’t be long before cartooning is recognised as a distinct profession. In other parts of the world, cartoons and comics have been very popular as a teaching resource. In Mexico, they have been used in bilingual courses, and throughout Asia, teachers use comics as the first step in literacy campaigns. Malaysia’s Creative Enterprises, through its Bambino comic magazine, promoted poetry, moral lessons, and stories of legendary Maly warriors; Thailand’s Department of Non-Formal Education published comics designed to teach rural people everything from breastfeeding to workers’ rights. The same government

* See Section 3

department in Nepal developed comic books to teach reading, writing, and mathematics, using stories that were dramatic, provocative, and able to discuss serious social issues. Japanese educational comics have had phenomenal success, starting with “Oishimbo” (Gourmet), a serialised cartoon published as a book in 1984. Each of its 15 volumes sold more than one million copies. The Hong Kong-based Asiaweek (May 6,1988) said Oishimbo is a “story of a lazy newspaper reporter who transforms himself, Superman-like, into a gourmet chef who offers tips on cooking and sometimes pontificates on related issues, such as the hazards of artificial flavoring.” One of the most popular educational comic books has been The Japanese Economy for Beginners, a four-volume work explaining the country’s complex economic system. Each of the first three volumes almost immediately sold 1.5 million copies. An English-language version was published in the U.S. The Japanese government picked up on the idea as its Economic PlanningAgency issued a comic book explaining the 1987 White Paper on the Economy. For years, the Chinese government issued serial picture books

for educational and propaganda purposes. In Angola in the 1970s, a comic book was designed and distributed by the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola to teach illiterate masses the meaning of independence and the path to it. One of India’s main comics editors, Anant Pai, started his own magazines when it struck him that foreign comics were damaging Indian children. Appalled at young people’s ignorance of Indian history, mythology, and folklore, he combined a simple format, Indian classics, and historical events in his comics, which by 1984, included 300 titles. His comics helped with national integration and provided a substitute for storytelling grandparents displaced in the dissolution of the family system. There are other examples of comics used for developmental purposes. In Peru, a book of line drawings was distributed to illiterate and semi-literate peasants to promote immunisation and family planning, while Pakistan’s Aga Khan Central Health Board did comic books to encourage people to use iodized oil capsules for the prevention of goiter. Elsewhere, comic books carried health messages to rural Honduran children, explained a controversial government bill in Singapore, warned children

about AIDS in Hong Kong, and pointed out the dangers of smoking in Malaysia. In the Philippines, where “komiks” are considered the national book, they have been used in campaigns about family planning, the Green Revolution, the exodus to the cities, pollution, drug taking, alcoholism, stereotypes of women, and nuclear power. Obviously, we are not talking about comics as an educational tool in the classroom alone. That is important, but so are the educational potentials of comics in other spheres such as building morals, social concerns, awareness, and empathy. Thus, inside and outside the classroom, comics can be a potent teacher and enough documentation exists to show that they have been. Kenyan cartoonists would do well to explore these areas as avenues of utilsing the power of cartoons.

Section Three

The Study

Sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and carried out by KATUNI, this study broadly sought to assess the impact of editorial cartooning on the political development of Kenya. While difficult to measure directly, an indication of this impact could nonetheless be gotten by studying cartoonists’ effect on public attitudes and the reactions of politicians/government to cartoons.

Objectives The specific objectives of the study were:

To explore public perceptions and attitudes to cartoons;

To explore the effect of cartoons on the politics of the country.


The study was carried out in three phases Quantitative survey

A questionnaire with both open and closed questions was

administered to a selectively random sample of newspaper readers. The objective of this phase of the research was to

quantify the responses from a sample that was representative of newspaper readership in Kenya. 700 interviews were carried throughout the major urban towns selected for the study included Nairobi, Mombasa, Thika, Machakos, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kisumu and Kisii.

In-depth interviews Face to face interviews were conducted with newspaper editors, cartoonists, political and social commentators.

Focus group discussions Two focus group discussions were conducted in Nairobi. The two groups were split into cartoon consumers and the cartoon artists. In addition to the above, desk research was carried out over the internet and particular reference was made to the work of Levi Obonyo who was then completing a PhD dissertation on Kenyan cartooning at Temple University in the USA.

The Findings

The study focussed on newspapers as the major carriers of editorial cartoons. The newspaper market is dominated by two publications, the Daily Nation and the East African Standard.

Exposure to cartoons 88 % of the respondents read newspapers daily or several time a week. This indicated that the majority of the respondents were in contact with editorial cartoons on a daily basis.

Most interesting sections of the newspaper





The editorial pages (where most newspapers print the daily editorial cartoon) were second only to the headlines as the most interesting section of the paper.

the headlines as the most interesting section of the paper. 21% 20% 7% 36% Newspaper association



as the most interesting section of the paper. 21% 20% 7% 36% Newspaper association with cartoonists



Newspaper association with cartoonists About 75% of the respondents correctly identified Gaddo and

KJ as cartoonists for the Nation newspapers. 63% of the respondents correctly listed Kham and Maddo as cartoonists for the EA Standard. Though self-published results of readership by one of the two dominant newspapers have indicated a market share of 80%, a majority of respondents could correctly identifycartoonists for the rival publication. This indicates that cartoonists’ popularity spans the divide.

Would cartoons make you buy a newspaper? Almost half the respondents said their purchase decision would be influenced by the presence of cartoons in a newspaper. This indicates a demand for cartoons among the consumers.

Most attractive feature of cartoons







Artistic Skills

Artistic Skills 15%


The above speaks to the effectiveness of cartoons as carriers of political messages.

Cartoon retention and recall Some of the more memorable cartoons included:

“Moi dancing ndombolo” “President Kibaki’s Nose while playing Golf” “Moi and Raila as bed fellows” “A person tied to a [bicycle taxi], that has met the new transport regulations”

75% of the sample could remember some cartoons. It is evident

that cartoon recall was based on the humour it generated or

particular issues addressed. Some of the cartoons were

published in 2002 which demonstrates that cartoons can be

retained in memory for a long time.

Why cartoonists employ caricature

83% thought caricature served to emphasise message or to

inject an element of humour into the message. Only 8% saw it

as a personal attack on the “victim”.

Issues ignored by cartoonists

Spiritual, sexual, economic and education issues were said to

be ignored areas by cartoonists. Only 3% felt that fear of

government was a hindrance to the work of cartoonists.

Cartoonists perceptions of their role

Cartoonists described the focus of their art as using humour

to highlight important issues and regulate the behaviour of

political leaders:

A cartoonist uses humour to make a point.” “We draw the public’s attention to serious issues in the political arena.” “Cartoons demystify people in power and bring them down to a level where they can be viewed as normal human beings who make mistakes!” “Cartoons serve as a mouth piece for the weaker majority who cannot express themselves”

Most cartoonists felt their work was constrained by timid

newspaper editors and the cultural values in the country.

They also complained of a shotage of sufficient media

through which to expose their work and exploit their talent

“We are hopeful that we will get a new genre of editors” “The number of newspapers in the country is limited and cannot effectively cater for the interest of the different communities” “The editorial contents of the papers target the urban middle class and hence misses out on the rural populace” “Some subjects, such as sex or religion, are regarded as taboo”

Consumer perceptions

Cartoonists’ work is described as well researched:

“I think they are great researchers just draw anything out of the blue”

Cartoons educate and inform:

They would not

“Cartoonists have a message because I can connect to what they are saying.”

Cartoonists’ work is also seen as elitist:

“You must have gone through some point of schooling” “It’s a kind of a leisure activity for the elitist group who are knowledgeable”

Cartoonists ar perceived as humourists:

“Cartoonists are expected to make people laugh”

Effect of cartoons

The in-depth interviews revealed that many felt cartoonists had

inspired the public to be bold and question politicians on issues

affecting their lives. They also thought cartoons had an effect

on the behaviour of politicians. “The bolder they are the more bolder we become” “Cartoons inspire people to discuss things” “They are an effective way to communicate serious political issues without the fear of facing the law” “Cartoons have made politicians cautious and watchful with their words”

Though no cartoonist reported ever being arrested, jailed or even sued due to a published cartoon, all top cartoonists reported receiving threatening phone calls. Newspaper and magazine editors also reported phone calls from leaders angered by cartoonists’ portrayals of them. One politician complained about his consistent portrayal as a gorilla and another called the proprietor of one of the largest circlation dailies to complain about the cartoonist’s constant portrayal of him as a suckling baby. Following the publication of Madd’s caricature of President Moi in the 1990s, a former editor at the Society magazine reported harassment from the Police.


“The news media

make indispensable inputs to the psycho-political life of a transitional

society via the minds and hearts of its people.” Lerner (1974, p. 870)

a major instrument of social change. They


Editorial cartooning has traditionally served as a visual means of protest. This tradition has been carried forward by Kenyan cartoonists beginning with Terry Hirst in the 1970s right down to the present. Though it is difficult to establish a link between Kenyan cartoonists’ work and a particular political event, it is clear that cartoons have greatly influenced public attitudes towards political leaders. Kenyan cartoonists see the focus of their art as regulating the behaviour of political leaders and have largely succeeded in their goal of “bringing them down to a level where they can be viewed as normal human beings who make mistakes!” The study also demonstrated that political leaders were aware of the power of cartoons and have either ameliorated their behaviour or resorted to threats in an effort to counter it. Editorial censorship was cited as one of the greatest impediments to cartoonists’ work. The media’s justifiable fear of governmental or judicial backlash (justifiable if one takes

into account the KANU regime’s efforts to muzzle the press through legislative and judicial means, e.g. the 2002 Media Bill and the huge libel awards by the courts) coupled with the

fact that they target largely the urban based middle class means that cartoonists are cut off from certain topics and audiences. According to Levi Obonyo, who is doing a PhD dissertation on Kenyan cartooning , cartoons have served “as commentaries

on political issues, a synthesised rendition of the

depiction of the socio economic condition of the society.” The public perceives cartoonists as fearless and objective, if humourous, commentators on the behaviour of hitherto untouchable politicians. Their use of pennames, such as Gado and Madd, may insulate them from accusations of ethnic bias. Even their use of caricature is not seen as an attempt at personal ridicule. The study also demonstrated a high level of appreciation and demand for their work. Cartoons were also shown to be an effective means of passing information as demonstrated by the fact that many respondents could still remember them (and the issues they raised) even after long periods of time.

news, and a

Directory of Local Cartoonists

Arum Tidi P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI) P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Celeste P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Communicating Artists Ltd 3rd Flr. Revlon Plaza P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 020-341715

Daniel “Hyaena” Muli P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

David “Mwalimu” Karogo P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

David Kimutai Kimtum P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Dupaul Kayuwa-mpoyi P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Fozi P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Frank Odoi P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Gammz P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Godfrey “Gado” Mwampembwa P.O. Box Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

J. Nyaga P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

James “Kham” Khamawira P.O. Box Nbi Tel: 0722-377653

John “KJ” Kiarie P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

John Paul Sagala P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Joshua Nanjero P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Kourier P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Martin Khamalla P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Patrick Gathara P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Paul “Madd” Kelemba P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Stanislus “Stano” Olonde P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Tuf Mulokwa P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

Victor Ndula P.O. Box 3613-00200 Nbi Tel: 0733-377653

James Ayaga Midega P.O. Box 147, Thika Tel: 0733-800652

John Mbugua Njathi P.O. Box 40658, Nbi Tel: 020-751515

Raphael Kiptoo Kimosop P.O. Box 13112-00100 Nbi Tel: 0722-834500

The history of cartooning in Kenya, as it is elsewhere in Africa, is indeed a

The history of cartooning in Kenya, as it is elsewhere in Africa, is indeed a work in progress. Little has been written on Kenyan journalism, and even less on cartooning. A generation ago, Kenya hardly had any cartooning of significance. But in the last two decades, cartoonists have taken the media, by storm. Today, all the major newspapers in Kenya feature political and comic strips. This publication sets out this history and also explores the impact cartooning has had on the political development of the country. The booklet was compiled by Patrick Gathara of the Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI) and funded by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).




Drawing the Line

Association of East African Cartoonists