Doaa el-Adl -By Nour Eltigany
CAIRO - 8 September 2017: Doaa el-Adl is an Egyptian Female Cartoonist that is famous for her expressive cartoons that have obvious political, social and human messages. She is considered the most important and influential female cartoonist in Egypt. ‘’The Cartoonist breaking gender taboos’’ as the BBC described Adl after choosing her to be on the list of 100 inspirational and influential women around the world for 2016.
Adl usually breaks in her cartoons taboos like female gender mutilation and sexual harassments. Eladl top priority in her cartoons is always the ordinary Egyptian citizens, so she expressed their problems and worries in her cartoons, came closer to them, so they love, trust and respect her work in return. Egypt Today interviewed Adl who revealed a lot about herself and her ultimate passion named caricature.
1- When did you start your journey incaricature?
I started about 10 years ago. Before that, I used to make drawings for children tales in ‘’Qatr El Nada’’ kids’ magazine. It is a semi- monthly magazine issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for children. When I was working in Qatr El Nada, I used to draw caricature sketches just for myself , I didn’t publish them, as I didn’t know how and from where to start. In 2007 one of my colleagues named Abdallah told me that the famous caricaturist Amr Selim who was working at that time in Al-Dostour newspaper encourages the presence of female caricaturists in the newspaper staff. Abdallah took some of my sketches to show them to Selim who found them nice and I started my journey with caricature since then in Al-Dostor newspaper. Later I worked with Sabah El heir and Rose Al Youssef magazines. In my career at that time it was extremely rich to work in different places and to experience different ceilings of freedom. Finally I got a job offer from Al-MasryAl-Youm newspaper that I work for currently.
2- Before 2007 what did you do?
I studied theatre and cinema décor at the university. After graduation I worked in interior designing in my hometown in Damietta governorate. Later I travelled to Cairo and worked as a graphic designer because I didn’t have any connections at that time in the journalism field.
3- Why do you choose to work as a cartoonist at a time few women in Egypt, and even around the world, are working in this field?
Simply because I love caricature and I have the talent of caricature drawing. The caricaturist is an intellectual person who is preoccupied with his or her country’s vital issues and concerns. I extensively followpolitical affairs as well as the local news, I have my opinion on the incidents that happen in my country like any other Egyptian, all of the previously mentioned in addition to my passion forcaricature and my talent made me decide to work as a cartoonist, or in other words made caricature choose me to join its charming world.
4- How do you choose the ideas that you’re going to tackle in your work?
I am what we may call a daily cartoonist. In Egypt there are plenty of events that occur daily, despite the fact that not all of them are happy events. First I read almost all the daily newspapers that cover all the incidents that happen in Egypt. Every cartoonist has his own visions and interests like any other person, these interests drive me to choose one of these daily incidents and I elaborate it with my drawings. My interests are in women, workers, and marginalized people. I am keen, in general, to focus in my caricature on people that have no voice, that the media usually neglect, you never watch them on screen. These are my criteria that always make me choose one piece of news and not the other.
5- This means that you favour such issues more than politics?
Politics is not separated from citizens’ daily life. For example, the decisions that the parliament takes, you see their effect on all the people’s faces the following day. I am interested in politics because it is purely connected with people’s life.
6- How do you evaluate the female cartoonists’ experience in Egypt and abroad, to what extent is it successful ?
All the time there are female Egyptian cartoonists but to judge if the experience is successful or not we should have more than one with big names that are able to compete with the male Egyptian cartoonists. after some time we can have those ones because Egypt is full of talents. Regarding abroad, unfortunately there is also scarcity in the number of female cartoonists, every country has only one or two female cartoonists who are professional and can compete with their male counterparts. I think the future will witness an increase in the number of female cartoonists in Egypt and abroad.
7- How do you see the caricature art movement globally now, is there is a progress in such kind of art currently?
Every country has its own caricature experience, so we cannot generalise. For example, I don’t like the American caricature school, because they don’t choose the idea of their caricature. They have an editorial board who choose the ideas for them. So, I don’t like this school because I feel that they have no interests or issues they are concerned with and dedicate their cartoons to defend it. On the other hand, Eastern Europe is extremely rich with very professional and talented cartoonists. Italy as well has impressive cartoonists because their style reflects the identity of the Italian art. Russia also houses successful cartoonists. What is really astonishingis that Iran has talented cartoonists despite the fact that their ceiling of freedom is significantly low. In Iran, you cannot use caricature to criticize any religious man or to tackle women’s rights, despite these facts there is a plenty of Iranian female cartoonists, which is very amazing.
8- What are the most important awards that you receive?
I received awards inside Egypt and from abroad, but I have to admit that I am more proudof my Egyptian awards than my international awards. In 2009, I was the first woman to receive the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate’s Journalistic Distinction award for caricature. Later I received Mustafa and Ali Amin Award from Egypt as well. I received a number of international awards. I received an award from Italy, Mahmoud Kahil award from Lebanon, Genève Press Club award from Switzerland and other awards from European countries like France. But frankly speaking the awards that are dear to my heart are the two Egyptian awards.
9- You were chosen by the BBC in 2016 to be on its list of 100 inspirational and influential women around the world what did that choice mean to you?
I was extremely happy not because I received such an honour but because there is an Egyptian female on such a list. As soon as I heard about this choice I was keen to know if it was stated that I am Egyptian and if there were other Egyptians in the list, the Egyptian representation was all what I cared about. When the Egyptian champion Farida Osmanwon Egypt’s First Ever Swimming World Championship Medal I was both happy and proud while making a cartoon about her. Any Egyptian who is honoured abroad is a major source of happiness and pride to all Egyptians.
10- What are the dearest cartoons to your heart and at the same time you felt that they delivered the messages that you wanted to send through them?
There are number of my drawings that are dear to me and I felt really that their messages reached the people, mainly they are what can be describedas the black comedy cartoons. First the cartoon I draw about the famous accident of Rashid boat, where a number of Egyptian youths lost their life as a result of illegal immigration. I drew a cartoon about this accident and I wrote under it the famous sentence of the renowned Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani “Do you know what the homeland is, Safiyya? The homeland is where none of this can happen’’ people greatly interacted with this cartoon. On 1 January 2011 the bombing of the Saints Church, coinciding with the Mawlid (the birthday of Islamic prophet Muhammad) celebrations so I drew the Mawlid dolls wearing black outfits, this cartoon touched the hearts of the people much. Caricature is a stinging, critical and sarcastic art, so most of the time I draw about negatives more than positive things. That’s why the cartoonist may suffer from boredom and depression from the repetition of almost the same accidents every year.
11- Your first book named ‘’50 drawings and more about Women’’ was issued earlier this year portraying different stories of different women, tell us more about this experience
Women are the heroines of my first book ‘’50 drawings and more about women.’’ In this book I tried to portray all women segments through caricature. In some of my drawings I was keen to present the fat and the not pretty women to establish the fact that we are not talking about the ideal women only. I started working on the book from about one year, but the idea of dedicating a caricature book for women was on my mind from about 10 years, since I started my cartoon career. Because in all the books I read about caricature art in the Arab world, I found that women affairs were obviously marginalized, or being tackled in a sarcastic way or from a purely physical point of view, there was no cartoonist who came close to women and discussed their critical female problems extensively and deeply, from this point I decided to shed the light on all what is related to women. On the other hand, there are a lot of cartoon books abroad that discussed women issues so I saw that there must be an Egyptian book in the Arab world tailor-made to discuss everything about women. My book is not about the Egyptian women only, it is about women everywhere, the only part that is dedicated to the Egyptian women only is the part about the Egyptian laws that discriminate against women and being unfair to her.
The book took the ascending order theme, in other words I began to portray the small daily problems and concerns facing women then the problems began to be more critical and complicated at the end of the book. The simple problems I portrayed at the beginning of the book were about how society views the divorced, the black skinned, the fat, her circumstances at work and the challenges facing her in it. Then I escalated the problems by embodying her exposure to sexual harassments, sexual rape and female genital mutilation. The third part is about the unfair laws that don’t protect women nor guarantee their rights. The message of the book to every woman ‘Be what you like to be not as what society or men want you to be’’. The last page of the book is a dancing party where men and women are dancing with each reflecting the equality between them, in the middle of this dancing party there is the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. I chose Umm Kulthum because it was the only one who was dubbed ‘’ El Set’’ (the woman) where here the word woman is for honouring, admiration and praising not for humiliating or belittling.
12-Who inspired you from the cartoonists of the previous generations?
The Egyptian school of caricature that appeared in the 1960s and the 1970s with its prominent cartoonists that we call the golden generation inspired all the generations that came after like Bahgat Osman, George Bahgoury, Mohyeldin El Labad, Leithy, Hegazy and Salah Jaheen.