By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
International Organisation, Journalists for Justice (J4J) in collaboration with Gambian Civil Society Organisation WAVE Gambia have launched an Art Collection of cartoons titled “Justice Through African Eyes” at the Alliance Francaise de Banjul on 9th February 2022. The exhibition will be on display for a week and will conclude on February 15th 2022.
Speaking at a press conference marking the launch of the Cartoon Exhibition Mr Kwamchetsi noted that when they made their first call for Gambian Cartoonists, they did not receive any. The gallery which is currently on display features some blank slates where it is hoped some Gambian Cartoonists will claim the space with their cartoon.
He noted that the Gambian Exhibition was the first of many which they will be taking different versions to countries like Sudan and Uganda and hope to take a similar exhibition to Nigeria and also Kenya. The exhibitions will aim to launch digital exhibitions to make them more accessible to countries that will not host the exhibition.
The launch of the exhibition featured a panel discussion on cartoons and freedom of expression. Watch the panel discussion below.
J4J’s Mr Kwamchetsi explained that “the purpose of the exhibition is to see if Africans are able to laugh at their problems. So, we have assembled an array of cartoons from across the continent discussing various themes on Justice”. Speaking about some of the experiences of Cartoonists he said despite their artwork making people laugh, they annoy powerful people. “Four of the cartoonists that we are exhibiting have had runnings with Presidents”.
Coincidentally the gallery also features four themes with the first focusing on the Colonial Legacy of Africa’s Justice system. The second theme focuses on the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur while the third theme highlights the Gambia which features the works of Cartoonists across the continent on former Dictator Yahya Jammeh.
According to their website J4J “is a not-for-profit foundation registered in The Hague (Stichting Journalists for Justice) and working to advance improved African journalistic capacity for social justice causes and accountability through training and effective online platforms and social media engagement”.
Featured in the gallery are “four themes, the first theme is about Justice in the continent, which is largely grafted from Justice Systems inherited during the Colonial Period. What that has done is to sub-planted indigenous justice systems, traditional justice systems. That sometimes creates a problem,” said Mr Kwamchetsi. He compared this with a kidney transplant where the body rejects the kidney because of incompatibility.
“The second tranche of this exhibition is the question of Gambia. Looking at the real numbers when discussing genocide, you find out that the Gambia has about some 200 victims dead and maybe 1,000 detained and tortured. It looks like a small number but comparatively the Gambia has a small population and small geographical size. So, when you consider scaling the things that have occurred in the Gambia are actually quite serious,” said Mr Kwamchetsi.
Unfortunately, he also highlighted that “when the first call for cartoonists was made we were not able to receive any from the Gambia. In his search for a cartoonist, prominent Gambian Journalist Saikou Jammeh told him “when you find one, please send them to me”.
However, from around the continent, there are cartoonists that are caricaturing Yahya Jammeh, the Gambia’s space is not entirely empty. “We are keeping some space for the Gambia’s cartoonists to step forward and claim that space and speak on behalf of the Gambian people. The exhibition does feature the work of other cartoonists from around the continent featuring Yahya Jammeh,” said Mr Kwamchetsi.
The third set of cartoons features the two genocides which took place in Rwanda and Darfur explained Mr Kwamchetsi. The fourth set of cartons in the exhibition is the question of Africa and International Criminal Justice Systems where Africa enters from a position of political weakness he says.
Sitting at the top of this power structure is the UN Security Council which he opined that “as you know it’s the most undemocratic institution people select themselves on the basis of how much nuclear power they have and they and they sit there and make decisions on behalf of the world”.
Africa seems to have numbers in this structure but there is a dichotomy between Africa’s large constituent of states and the way those international justice systems are run. In his view, this brings into focus questions about how sufficient International Criminal Justice really is.
The Kenya case which he referred to as a test case is also featured in the cartoon gallery. According to Mr Kwamchetsi, the cartoons highlight an instance where the International Justice system was tested to the limit. This case centred around a sitting head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta making it the first time a sitting head of State was being tried by the ICC. It forced the International Justice System to respond to a States attempts to frustrate their case.
Watch the press conference in the video link below.