First Published: 2011-05-02

 

Gathafi caricature flourishes in rebel capital Benghazi

 

Flamboyant Libyan strongman fuelling cartoon caricature scene in country's rebel stronghold.

 

Middle East Online

By Rory Mulholland – BENGHAZI, Libya

'We fight with pictures and words'

Moamer Gathafi pumping petrol into a winged camel, Gathafi with the tail of a snake and a forked tongue, Gathafi as Dracula.

The flamboyant Libyan strongman is fuelling a flourishing cartoon caricature scene in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Those are just a few of the themes produced by a group of young artists who reached not for their guns but for their coloured pens and spray cans when Libya's revolution kicked off in mid-February.

One of them paid for it with his life, gunned down by secret police.

The group now goes by the name of their dead colleague, Qais al-Halali, and continues its work from a ramshackle office in a makeshift media centre next to the rebel headquarters on the city's seafront.

"We draw caricatures here and then distribute them around the city. We give them to people to show at demonstrations or hang on walls," said Akram al-Bruki, 32, who uses the moniker Kimo to sign his work.

Bruki took out two commemorative posters of Halali, one showing a picture of his fresh-faced late colleague, the other showing the bruised and bloodied head of a dead man.

"He got a message to stop," delivered by Gathafi's forces before they were chased out of the eastern city. "But he didn't stop. When we started doing this we swore that no-one would stop us."

The secret police finally caught up with Halali in late March, shooting him dead as he drove up to a checkpoint, said Bruki.

Bruki and his three colleagues vowed afterwards to step up their production to play their part in trying to bring about the downfall of the man who had ruled their country since before they were born.

"We didn't go to the front. We fight with pictures and words," said Ahmed Ahreb, 33, who writes captions and speech bubbles for the cartoons his friends make.

The walls of their office and of the whole media centre were jammed with their pictures and nearby buildings are daubed with graffiti and grotesque depictions of Gathafi.

On the wall behind Bruki was a picture of Hosni Mubarak, the ex-president of Egypt who was ousted in a popular uprising in February, presenting a tray of drinks to Gathafi.

"Take some Red Bull to help you fly," says the speech bubble above the Egyptian.

"I'm not the kind who flies. I'm going to stay," replies the Libyan.

Bruki said that the eccentric Gathafi, with his jowly face, bushy hair, colourful clothes and penchant for glamorous female bodyguards, was an easy target for satire.

He pointed to his own favourite caricature on a wall in the media centre corridor.

"Gathafi Cats" was the slogan above a drawing of the strongman snuggled up between two buxom women bodyguards in green army uniforms and red berets.

Bruki produced a folder with several drawings he had just finished, which he said were being sent to Egypt to figure in an exhibition there before going on to another show in Qatar.

He also proudly took out his mobile phone to display a photo of himself spray-painting a cartoon of the leader he hates on the wall of an army barracks in central Benghazi.

"It was really dangerous to do this at the time because the secret police were in the streets," he said.

He said he was convinced his group's work not only boosted morale in rebel-held areas but that it also unnerved Gathafi, whose forces control the western half of the country.

"Gathafi definitely sees them and they make him nervous. Many journalists have come here and filmed us or wrote articles about us, and he will see that on the television," he said.

 

New government in Yemen plus cut in fuel prices

11 Egypt policemen killed in Sinai bomb blast

US army back in Somalia

Paris, Riyadh 'finalising' $3bn Lebanon arms deal

Sudan orders Iran to close cultural centres

Syria arrests pro-regime activists over criticism

Libya pro-Islamist figure presents rival cabinet lineup

Israel faces mounting criticism over Palestinian land grab

Saudi Arabia arrests 88 suspected extremists in 'anti-terror' drive

New UN chief for South Sudan faces ‘huge challenge’

US air strikes target senior Shebab officials in Somalia

‘Scourge of terrorism’ pushes Africa to intensify cooperation

Relatives of missing Iraq soldiers storm parliament in Baghdad

IS accused of 'systematic ethnic cleansing' in Iraq

UK announces tougher measures against Britons planning jihad

Algeria hosts new round of Mali peace talks

US launches new round of air strikes around Iraq dam

Turkey summons US charge d'affaires over Snowden claims

Turkey new PM promises peace with Kurds

Will UN Human Rights Council investigate IS abuses?

Iran convicts Ahmadinejad's vice president for embezzlement

Fierce clashes shatter uneasy calm near armistice line in Golan Heights

Turkey detains dozens of police in new nationwide raids

Libya loses control of Tripoli to Islamist-led militias

Thousands of Huthis defy UN in new show of strength

Iraq presses fightback against jihadist-led militants

Wounded Gazans need long-term care

Britain to go tougher on jihadist suspects

Libyan Islamist militiamen control US embassy compound

Israel shoots down drone over occupied Golan Heights

Yemen army suffers heavy losses in new wave of Qaeda attacks

Turkish army breaks silence on Kurdish peace talks

Islamic State offers grim inspiration to African extremists

Shebab target intelligence HQ in Somalia

Israel expropriates 988 acres of Palestinian land in West Bank

Iraq recaptures Amerli from Islamic State in biggest success so far

Saudi King calls for ‘strong and rapid action’ against jihadists

Jihadists distribute Yazidi women as spoils of war to fighters

Gulf countries resolve six-month dispute with Qatar

Egypt reduces Badie death sentence to life in prison

AU forces liberate former Shebab stronghold in Somalia

Philippines enters war in Syria!

Kurds put aside old rivalries to battle jihadists in Iraq

Iran says new sanctions cast doubt on US sincerity

US imposes new sanctions on Iran