Wednesday, 22 May 2013


“Justin, Justin,” screamed scores of photographers in Cannes this week, as they tried to get the attention of gleaming singer-actor Justin Timberlake, who was at the Cannes Film Festival to promote the movie "Inside Llewyn Davis”.

As “Justin” paused, he was caught on camera against the backdrop of drawings by some of the world’s leading cartoonists.

These drawings have been mounted by Cartooning for Peace, a non-profit association invited to the film festival to raise awareness of their work.

French cartoonist Plantu.
Titled “Plantu & Friends, Drawings of Freedom”, the exhibition reflects the group’s aims, which are to “encourage dialogue, promote freedom of expression, and recognize the journalistic work of cartoonists”, said Alice Toulemonde, the association’s spokesperson.

Formed in 2006 by the renowned French cartoonist Plantu and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, Cartooning for Peace also seeks to “promote a better understanding and mutual respect between people by using cartoons as a universal language”.

The group currently comprises more than 100 cartoonists who represent 40 nationalities and all of the world’s major religions. During the festival, the irony and humour in the cartoons have brought smiles to participants rushing from screening to screening.

Beyond the flashbulbs, the organizers of the film festival said they wanted to draw attention to threats against freedom of expression as, in the past few years, cartoonists from Syria, Venezuela and several other countries have been in danger because of their work.

Michel Kichka, a leading Israeli cartoonist who was born in Belgium, said that being a member of Cartooning for Peace means knowing more about what is happening in the world.

Kichka: cartoonists promote peace in the face of threats.
“You have to read more than one newspaper and in different languages to know how things are being presented,” he said in an interview in Cannes. “Today you need to know the effect that your work can have, and you have to take into consideration that you can be badly misunderstood, but that doesn't mean you can’t express yourself.”

According to Kichka, someone somewhere “is always going to be upset”, but cartoonists should still have freedom of expression.

“If you don’t upset anyone, you’ve done a bad cartoon because you’ve sterilized yourself too much,” he said.

Kichka’s views were shared by fellow cartoonists Plantu, Willis From Tunis (Nadia Khiari), and Dilem of Algeria, who all travelled to this southern French city for the exhibition of cartoons during the film festival, which runs until May 26.

They also attended a “star-studded” auction of their own and other cartoonists’ original artwork that fetched 75,000 euros on Monday. The auction gained support from Claudia Cardinale, Bérénice Bejo, Agnès b., James Franco, Michel Hazanavicius, Thomas Vinterberg and other members of the film and fashion communities. “Justin” had presumably left the building by then.

A cartoon by Willis From Tunis