Young African Artists Use Their Work To Address Social Issues

By Paul Ndiho
April 5, 2012
The second annual international festival of drawing known as “pencil lead” brings together artists and cartoonists from Benin, France, Ivory Coast and Togo. The workshop aims to promote various forms of drawing and encourages young artists to use their work to help address social issues.
Emmanuelle Gabled, is working on her latest drawing at the French institute in Lome Togo. The 35-year-old is a cartoonist and designer who works for the country’s weekly ‘Pipo magazine’, and likes to use subjects around her to bring out ideas in her drawings and caricatures.

Emmanuelle says she would like to see more upcoming artists joining the field because, compared to other professions, it is not getting enough attention.
“I think it’s great, it’s good for all young people and for those who think that women can’t draw or those who think they are useless at drawing; they should know it’s for everyone.”
The festival brought together artists from West Africa and Europe to share ideas, and showcase some of their best work. The event attracted both amateur and professional artists; art work exhibited included graffiti, music, comics and paintings. Washington-based artist Kristopher Mosby says that artists from this region of West Africa need to keep studying, drawing and sketching to perfect their skills.
“It takes certain energy and dedication that the youth have and i remember being young and having that kind of drive, that kind passion and it’s good to see it amongst them because they are only going to get better at their craft. Even the ones that are very good right now would be even better three, four, five, six years from now and that great. It’s really wonderful to see that.”
Many participants were particularly taken by classes in caricature drawing and spent time exploring techniques.
Donald Aklassou an editorial cartoonist says cartoons appeal more to readers in Togo because they summarize ideas well.
“Editorial cartoons can easily express what we mean, given that many readers are lazy, they do not read, cartoons are short, they can have what they have on one or two pages in a drawing. i think in fact that the newspaper cartoon has its place in the world press.”
Organizers also want to bring about 30-thousand students across the country to their workshops to help nurture talent and hold courses on artistic entrepreneurship.
“I really think Togolese artists are very talented but that talent must be accompanied and promoted in order for them to make a living. So what they have here is fabulous, it’s very interesting.”
Kristopher Mosby also stresses the need for African artists to do more to promote their work abroad, take advantage of internet and eliminate the middle-men because they don’t need big companies to sell their art work.
“Well, just get your name out there, it’s a competitive field like anything else and to make money from it that’s a challenge. A lot of people nowadays go independently, which is a little bit of an advantage. Twenty, thirty years ago, you really had to be with some type of a company. Maybe a big company or a small company because it was very difficult financially to go at it alone whereas nowadays with the internet you can do web publishing, or you can do print on demand and you can literary just sell it yourself.”
The workshop organizers emphasized that cartoonists should be respected, because they play a key role in forming public opinion, bringing about desired change and promoting peace.

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