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.

 

Trump accuses Assad of committing 'horrible' crimes

Tunisia parliament passes bill to 'end all violence' against women

Egypt creates 'national council' to fight 'terror'

Battle on Lebanon-Syria border proves difficult for Hezbollah fighters

Climate change will make wildfires more common

Iran 'successfully' tests satellite launch rocket

Israeli forces attack Palestinians returning to sensitive holy site

Turkish PM tells German execs they are not part of ‘tension’

UAE agent Dahlan attends Hamas-led parliament

Ceasefire deal reached on Syria-Lebanon border

Al-Jazeera rejects Netanyahu's accusations of 'incitement'

A hunt for the missing in the ruins of Mosul

Rights group says Iraqi unit executed Mosul prisoners

Etihad posts $1.87 bn loss in 2016

France to conduct asylum seeker checks in Libya

Palestinians to return to Jerusalem holy site

Subdued atmosphere in Jerusalem's Old City

Britain lifts Tunisia travel warning

Police in Cairo kill 4 suspected in mid-July attack

Bahrain charges 60 in mass trial

Erdogan says Israeli removal of holy site metal detectors not enough

Tripoli asks Italy to send ships in fight against traffickers

Egyptian state seizes land from ‘squatters’

Jerusalem standoff continues over 'advanced' cameras

UN says majority of Yemen children in need of immediate aid

Syrian civilians turn to smugglers to flee Raqa fighting

Clashes erupt in Eastern Ghouta despite Syria truce deal

Isolated Qatar criticises new Saudi bloc blacklist

Top EU court keeps Hamas on terror list

Iran’s deputy FM: US sanctions vote 'hostile'

Two Moroccan UN peacekeepers killed in C. Africa attack

Rival Libyan leaders agree to ceasefire, elections

Palestinians demand removal of Jerusalem 'security' measures

Key challenges in Libya's chaos

Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf

Saudi raises $4.53 bln in oversubscribed bond issue

Jordanian mourners chant 'death to Israel'

14 Saudis face ‘imminent’ unfair execution says Amnesty

Rival Libyan leaders hold talks in France

Amnesty International urges EU to 'reset' Turkey relations

Erdogan urges Muslims to ‘protect’ Jerusalem

US sanctions protecting Iranian tech sector

Air strike kills civilians in Syria despite truce

278 Europe-bound migrants rescued off Libya

Beirut, the upcoming start-up hub in MENA region