Cartoonist Yvan Alagbé gave a lecture titled, “Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures,” on April 16 for the Text/Image Working Group. Alagbé gave a reading of his work, “Le Negro Jeune” and discussed his artistic choices in his cartoons. Alagbé intended for his images to be raw and imprecise, representing the details of life that blur together. He also does not shade in people of color, instead making all people in his cartoons yellow. Some images emphasize the contrasts between skin tones, and the shading of characters changes from panel to panel. Throughout time, Alagbé has used the same stories while modifying images from one version to the next. He seeks to tell stories about how people experiencing discrimination can also discriminate against others. All of the characters he creates are not purely good or bad, but in between.

Alagbé described two of the scenes depicted in his reading in greater detail. One scene centered on a woman and her father. In this scene the father joked about his daughter’s love life, laughing at the possibility that she may be dating a black man. The daughter then reveals that she was indeed dating a black man, causing them to fight. This scene was based on Alagbé’s own dating life, when his girlfriend at the time experienced a similar encounter with her own father. In drawing the woman, Alagbé wanted to make her both pretty and ugly. He tries to link fantasy with reality through his images and stories.

The second scene depicted a police officer trying to find someone in a large apartment building. The character was based on an Algerian man that Alagbé met through family friends who had worked as his housekeepers. The man fought on the side of France in the Algerian war, and never completely fit within the French or Algerian community because of this. The housekeepers maintained a relationship with the policeman, hoping that he could help them with immigration, as they were undocumented. Alagbé was moved by the complexities of this relationship, which inspired him to create his book.

Here is an article on Alagbé published recently by the NY Times.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 23, 2018

On April 11, the Text and Image in Africa Working Group hosted Grace Musila (Stellenbosch University) for her lecture, “Comic calibrations of violence in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.” Her lecture questioned how comedy and humor engage with violence in Africa, driven by the existing literature that ties together humor and social suffering. Dr. Musila used three case studies to examine the digital remixing of news reports for comedy throughout Africa.

The first case study centered on Nigerian First Lady Patience Jonathan’s televised breakdown over the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. Remixed parodies of this video were created due to the public perception that the First Lady’s response was disingenuous. Dr. Musila argues that remixing the video was used as a way of expressing anger and resilience by creating laughter and a culture of participation among constituents in Nigeria. The remixes of the First Lady’s speech broke down the formal rules of engagement in politics. They subjected state powers and citizens under that power to comedic scrutiny.

The second case study focused on the 2007 murder of a young man by police in Nairobi, Kenya. During this period, Nairobi was experiencing increased harassment and extrajudicial killings of members of youth militia by police. Following the murder, reporters interviewed a friend of the man who was killed. In the interview, the man claimed that a bonoko (a fake gun) was planted at the scene. This video later was reenacted and made into a parody, highlighting the humor in the idea of a planted fake gun. The term bonoko is now used in referenced anything fake.

The third case highlighted the 2012 police massacre of 34 miners in Marikana, South Africa. A musician created a video parody, using word play to criticize political responses to the massacre.

CAS News Bulletin- Week of April 16, 2018