In a country where it takes guts to just write against the political figures, making political caricatures and cartoons — which could instigate the party members to retaliate — may seem like a far-fetched thought. However, Dawn’s Rafique Ahmad aka Feica, ventured into the profession 32 years ago when he started making cartoons that embody a revolutionary impulse.
In a lengthy, heart-warming discussion on “Sketchy Politics”, the veteran cartoonist explained what inspired him to foray into this rather risky profession. “I want to draw and paint in order to inform people about what is going on in the country,” said Feica, who says that he has seen Pakistan go through drastic changes. “I haven’t criticised any government in particular, I have only ‘illustrated’ every regime in the country since 1979.”
Meanwhile regretting the state of art and artists in the country, Feica explained; “Art has been neglected in our country because of the rise of maulvis and fundamentalism. Also, those who do want to become artists, don’t want to draw caricatures. This, he explained, was due to certain perceptions that have pervaded the society. “You need to respect your artists and their ideological beliefs, whatever these may be.”
Claiming that his cartoons and caricatures are for a “revolutionary cause”, and not for commercial business, Feica elaborated, “I can make a lot of money if I frame my cartoons and exhibit them abroad, but I’m a passionate and fully committed to my cause.”
Patriotic to the core, Feica is, however, optimistic that the state of the country will improve. “This is a happening country. I’m certain that there will be progress and growth in all frontiers — art, theatre and films. However, you must save the artistic breed of the country, which is a rare breed all over the world.” The artist stressed the importance of having a professional and logical approach and outlook towards art. “Look at the entire architecture of Karachi; see how badly the roads get affected when it rains; look at the drainage system, see how poor it is? Whereas, in New York, where I lived for six years, everything is professionally done, with a lot of precision. Sadly, there is no concept of town-planning in Karachi.”
Present amongst the audience at T2F was renowned writer Mohammed Hanif — the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes — whom Feica praised for his guts. The cartoonist explained that revolutionary artists and authors — like himself and Hanif — somehow “slip out of the hands of miscreants”, precisely because they have an enormous body of work to their credit, which will speak for itself even if they are killed. “Maraa huwa haati bhi sawa lakh ka hota hai,” he smirked, highlighting that even if they are killed their work, which speaks volumes, will remain.
With court cases against him, Feica, who has been in the profession for 32 years, has gone to jail twice, but believes experience alone teaches a man how to survive. “My cartoons have been killed by the editor, on the pretext that they cannot be published. My editors kill my work over and over again but I don’t care and I will continue doing it,” said the cartoonist, also admitting that he wants to venture into drawing graffiti on the city’s walls.
Wrapping up the two-hour long talk with an important piece of advice, he stated; “In order to survive in this country, you have to work towards liberating yourself. Nobody can do this for you, but yourself.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2011.