Political and satirical cartoons can be considered to be one of the most important elements in the success of print newspapers in the Arab world. How many artists have shocked out society and sparked violent reactions from governments as a result of direct and striking criticism of their performance or symbols via this most simple of forms.
In the Arab world, this art-form has its stars. Nobody can recall Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper without thinking of the quill of famed cartoonist Salah Jahin, whilst nobody can think of Al-Akhbar newspaper without recalling Mustafa Hussein. As for the well-established Rose al-Yusuf magazine, this gave its start to many famous cartoonists such as Hijazi, el-Laithi, Juma, Bahjat and others. However such cartoons were not exclusive to the Egyptian media, even if this was the home for many talented and indeed prolific cartoonists and satirists. In addition to this, the Kuwaiti-based Al Qabas newspaper published important satirical cartoons by now departed Palestinian artist Naji al-Ali. In addition to this, we saw a similar phenomenon in Bahrain at the hands of cartoonist al-Mahraki, whilst cartoonist Hamid’s works were published in Abu Dhabi’s Al Ittihad newspaper. We also cannot forget Ali Farzat, the most important cartoonist in Syria whose satirical cartoons have played a hugely important role in criticizing the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad in a dazzling and highly effective manner.
There is also al-Kharji, one of the pioneers of the political cartoon in Saudi Arabia who is well-known for his important work. As for Lebanon, this country – which is small in size but large in terms of freedom of thought and opinion – has an important and striking share of stars in this field, including figures such as Elie Saliba, Stavro Jabra, Antoine Ghanem, Wadi Habib and Armand Homsi. However the biggest stars in the field of political cartoons in Lebanon are none other than the genius Pierre Sadek, along with Mahmoud Kahlil, of course. Kahlil died not long ago, leaving behind a tremendous legacy of exceptional work. Whilst Sadek has recently been honored by the Lebanese government being awarded the National Order of the Cedar at the rank of Commander by Information Minister Walid Daouk at the behest of President Michel Sleiman.
There can be no doubt that Pierre Sadek deserves every honor, for he was and remains a major draw for all those reading al-Nahar newspaper. He is a graduate of the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts in Beirut, whilst he was the first person to produce animated cartoons broadcast on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation [LBC]. Sadek later went on to join Future TV at the request of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Hariri supported and encouraged Sadek and even enjoyed the political cartoons that Sadek draw of him.
I know Pierre Sadek personally, and I closely followed his work when he was working for Saudi Arabia’s Okaz newspaper during the period that my father – may he rest in peace – was in charge of its management. The decision to print Sadek’s cartoons was an adventurous one because he wanted cartoons that did not focus on the local scene but rather looked across the border for their inspiration. Indeed the first cartoon that Sadek published at Okaz depicted the word “Lebanon” and a hidden hand extended to seize the final “n” in this word. This cartoon was a reference to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon at the time, and the frequent massacres that were taking place against innocent civilians as a matter of course.
Pierre Sadek’s career is full of distinction and honors, he was previously decorated with the National Order of the Cedar at the rank of Knight during the era of President Sleiman Franjieh, whilst he twice won the poet Said Akl prize, in addition to numerous other national and international awards. Having a peerless satirical cartoonist on staff is an honor for any newspaper or magazine, and at al-Nahar newspaper Pierre Sadek’s cartoons could compete with the articles of “the professor” Ghassan Tueni, the headlines of Michel Abou Jaoude and even literary reviews of works by Samir Atallah, Ansi El-Hajj, May Mans and others.
After a long journey in the world of political and satirical cartoons, Pierre Sadek has received another honor to remind people that one must always strive for excellence…that is the most important thing!