Tue, 15 Jul 2003

'My Asian Neighbors' in hilarious cartoons

Tantri Yuliandini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An artist works by absorbing the world around him and pouring it back into his creations. Sometimes the expression comes abstractly, other times, as in the work of cartoonists, it takes the form of tongue-in-cheek frankness.

A lampoon of Bali's relentless hawkers, for example, results in a cartoon of a surfing tourist being hounded by a hawker selling bananas using a plank as surfboard, as created by Indian cartoonist Neelabh Banerjee from The Times of India.

Criticism of the country's failure to address the problem of pollution is contained in Dwi Koendoro Brotoatmodjo's To Teach How To Fish, a cartoon of a grandfather fishing with his grandson.

Beneath the drawing the Kompas cartoonist wrote the words, "If I give you a fish, you will only eat once. But if I teach you how to fish, you will eat as long as you live." However, the river they are fishing in is full of trash, with a backdrop of the smoking chimney stacks of factories.

These are just two of the 100 cartoons displayed at the Asian Cartoon Exhibition at Taman Ismail Marzuki's Galeri Cipta 2 in Central Jakarta. The exhibition, organized by The Japan Foundation, is being held as part of ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003.

The exhibition is divided into two categories, Human Resources in Asia and Images of My Asian Neighbors.

Human Resources in Asia, the topic for the Fifth Asian Cartoon Exhibition, features the work of 10 cartoonists from nine countries. While the Sixth Asian Cartoon Exhibition took the topic Images of My Asian Neighbors, featuring the work of eight cartoonists from eight countries.

Indonesia is represented by Kompas's Dwi Koendoro in the fifth exhibition and Suara Pembaruan evening daily's Gatot Eko Cahyono in the sixth exhibition.

In Images of My Asian Neighbors cartoonists were invited to create works that touched on some aspect of life in neighboring countries.

Indonesia's Gatot Eko Cahyono gave his impression of Japan with The Asian Tiger, a cartoon showing a yellow tiger spotted with Japanese flags, or hinomaru, roaring proudly atop the rock of "economy". One must bear in mind that these cartoons were created in 2001.

Adam Lee of Singapore's The Straits Times drew a men's locker room scene, with one man wearing fishnet stockings and putting on lipstick. The cartoon was titled In Thailand, transvestites are accepted for what they are.

While some of the cartoons are revealing, many tread well worn paths, such as Beijing Ribao cartoonist Sun Yi-Zeng's observation about Indians' deference to cows. While Surapon Pittayasakul of Thailand's Kao Sod daily submitted a cartoon about China's preference for boys over girls.

Nishida Toshiko of Japan's Nikkei newspaper was one of the participants in the exhibition titled Human Resources in Asia. Her cartoon aptly describes the pressure children face from their parents, and their responding rebellion.

Japan's assimilation of foreign cultures is also dealt with in a cartoon by Toshiko showing traditional Japanese musicians and Sesame Street characters Big Bird, Bert and Ernie crossing the road together.

-- The Asian Cartoon Exhibition will run from July 11 to July 18 at Galeri Cipta 2 in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Jl. Cikini Raya No. 73, Central Jakarta. The exhibition is free of charge and is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.