Cartoons are not the form of expression typically associated with bereaved parents, but the members of the Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF) are far from typical. PCFF is a community of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost close family members as a result of violence in the region. According to their mission statement, they “strive to offer a breakthrough in people’s frame of mind, to allow a change of perception, a chance to re-consider one’s views and attitudes towards the conflict and the other side.” What better means to change perception, than through caricatures and cartoons – a media that does not choose sides, but rather exists between the visual and verbal.
“Cartoons in Conflict” is an exhibit sponsored by PCFF and curated by cartoonist par excellence Michel Kichka, on display at the Israeli Cartoon Museum through December 12, 2009.
The exhibit will then travel to New York and from there to Spain, London and any other country that would be interested in hosting this unique exhibit. Representatives from PCFF will accompany the exhibit, conveying their message of peace and reconciliation.
The cartoons are varied and individual, reflecting the talents and different perspectives of the invited artists. Kichka has assembled a selection of visually exciting, clever and often poignant cartoons drawn by a stellar group of artists from around the world. Among the participating cartoonists are: Baha Boukari, Jeff Danziger, Liza Donnelly, Jim Morin, Plantu, and Patrick B. Oliphant.
Robi Damelin, public relations representative for PCFF, read the text of one of her favorite cartoons (by Cathy Wilcox of Australia) during a preview look at the exhibit, saying, “This is who I am: This is the bullet that broke the child that broke the parents that broke the family that broke the community that broke the town that broke the state that was seeking revenge from the country…which broke the heart of the world.” Damelin addressed the group explaining that although the media is full of news stories about the situation in the Middle East, “there isn’t usually a face to this conflict.” That is where the PCFF directs its efforts, relating personal stories and conducting educational projects that create the connection in people’s minds between the conflict as a somewhat abstract and distant entity, and the effect on the lives of individuals. Because, as Damelin says: “people care about people.”
In addition to the exhibit itself, PCFF has printed a calendar that includes some of the cartoons. “Art can be a wonderful catalyst to spread a message of hope,” says Damelin. She expressed the hope that the calendar would be on “everybody’s wall” to raise awareness of PCFF’s efforts to educate towards dialogue and reconciliation. The calendar runs from September 2009 to December 2010 and displays the Moslem, Druze, Jewish and Christian holidays. All proceeds from sales will go towards the education project in Israeli and Palestinian schools. Ali Abu Awwad, spokesperson and project manager, is Damelin’s partner in representing PCFF worldwide. He expressed the essence of the group’s message succinctly and powerfully: “No one deserves to die.”
Curator Kichka wrote in his foreward to the catalogue that accompanies the exhibit that “Organizing an exhibition of cartoons illustrating reconciliation in conflict was an extremely difficult and challenging task for the Parents Circle – Family Forum. Challenging because peace, reconciliation and tolerance seem impossible to achieve in the morning, within reach at lunchtime and so distant in the evening.” Perhaps the dynamic and in some sense dual nature of cartoons, where image and word are often at odds with one another, creating ironic layers of meaning, make them the ideal medium to portray these aspirations.
Cartoons in Conflict
Through December 12, 2009
The Cartoon Museum, 61 Weizman Street, Holon
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10:00 – 13:00
Tuesday and Thursday 17:00 – 20:00
Information: 03-6521849, www.cartoonmuseum.org.il
The Cartoons in Conflict calendar may be purchased for 50 NIS either at the museum
or online: www.theparentscircle.com
In the US the cost is $20.00, purchase online or send a check to American Friends of the Parents Circle, 1110 Second Avenue, 3rd Floor, Room 303, New York, N.Y. 10022.
Image: Cartoon by Michel Kichka
Translation of text: “My mother’s white and my father’s black!”
“And I am just the opposite.”