Egyptian Caricatures


Egyptian Caricatures

by Sherif Awad
The art of caricature goes back to the day of Leonardo da Vinci and artists of the 18th century who also used to criticize social and political matters by drawing exaggerated portrayal of public figures using their pens and brushes. Caricatures and cartoons grew up since then and matured to have more effects and stronger receptions than words in columns and articles in big publications. Let’s not forget the recent terrorist attacks of the French satirical Charlie Hebdo showing the power of cartoon and its reach.
One of the Egyptian cartoonists who showed new creativity not only in cartoons but also in the comics and storytelling is Yasser Hussein who left Egypt in 2004 to work in Kuwait in order to seek more freedom and better financial stability. However, Hussein was never disconnected from the continuous changes in the Egyptian society which he retraced with his colorful drawings and funny cartoons. Making use of classic tools like pencils and watercolors, Hussein also injected 2D and 3D feelings to his drawing by using tablet technologies and photoshop softwares.
Born 1972, caricature artist Yasser Hussein started to draw when he was ten years old. He was influenced like many Eyptian kids by reading the Egyptian editions of Mickey and Tintin magazines that used to be popular in the 1970s amongst children. Also, through a friend of his father, artist Sayed Badawy in al-Ahram organization, Hussein was first introduced to the term “caricature”. When Badawy took a glance at my drawings , he told my father that the quality of my lines exceeded the regular drawings made by kids at that age”, remembered Hussein. “It was the first time, I heard that I am actually drawing caricatures and not just some childish hobbies”. Badawy urged Hussein to its follow the works by artists of that like Salah Jahin in al-Ahram and Mostapha Hussein in al-Akhbar to learn and to seek inspirations. “While growing up, I continued to draw and get guidance from Badawy and other artists until I enrolled in the Fine Arts Department of the Faculty of Specific Education”. In 1993, Hussein was nineteen years old when the specialized magazine Caricature, headed by its chief editor Mostafa Hussein, started to appear on the newsstands. “I was recommended by my professors to join its artists while also starting to contribute in many other publications like the Egyptian Sudanese magazine Ikhaa, al-Nabaa newspaper, al-Ahram’s Friday supplement. I also drew portrait of celebrity interviewees in the sports newspaper al-Kora wee al-Malaeb”.
However, Yasser Hussein rarely drew politically driven caricatures until the revolution of January 25. “I always believed that, in Egypt, all our social problems are related to politics”, revealed Hussein. “ But before the revolution, we, as cartoon artists, couldn’t caricaturize the president or the prime minister to a certain extent and so caricature was some kind of tamed at that time”. Hussein, who has the same name as late artist Mostapha Hussein but without striking any familial relationship, confesses that he was influenced by Mostapha Hussein caricatures and characters that used to appear on a daily basis on the last page of Al-Akhbar newspaper. “Lot of people when seeing my woks thought that I was Mostapha Hussein’s son”, laughed Yasser who knew the late artist when he used to contribute to Caricature Magazine. “During my early beginnings, some people claimed that I try to copy Mostapha Hussein’s but I think it is a regular accusation for debuting artists”.  
The other challenge for caricature artists that, unlike other types of visual arts and their practitioners, that their artworks cannot sell in exhibitions like paintings or drawings always do.  “In my early beginnings, I used to join group exhibitions in Egypt but now I succeeded to make a solo exhibition in Cairo before I moved to Kuwait”, said Hussein. “The best thing that can happen to caricatures after being published in magazines and newspapers is have them collected inside one book after some solo exhibitions”. Hussein effectively published his first book in 2010 “Like Old Sayings” gathering a handful of his drawings and cartoons of twenty years. The book was on bookstands during a solo exhibition by the same name in Cairo as well. Last January, Hussein issued his newest book Hawadity “My Own Tales” in which he adapted incidents that happened to him into 24 stories using words and illustrations. “I think this book is my passage from being a cartoonist into becoming a satirist”, comments Yasser who has another dream project: to create an academic book that guides young talents into finding their way to become cartoonist and illustrators like him.
Yasser Hussein’s works can be found on his Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/Yasser.Hussein.Cartoons