A cartoonist’s resistance
SOON Chuan Yean
This visual essay intends to introduce to readers the role of a cartoonist in ‘doing’ politics. A Malaysian cartoonist, popularly known as Zunar, develops his political cartoons within the context of Malaysian repressive political structures, but manages to resist the oppressive state apparatus through cartoons. His political cartoons engage politics in the realm of institutional change, as well as to provide an alternative articulation of ‘history’ and ‘nation’ to juxtapose against the state’s definitions of Malaysian culture, nation, citizenry, and history.
Zunar was born in 1962 in Bukit Junun in Gurun, Kedah. At the age of 12, he has started to draw cartoons, which have appeared in various magazines and newspapers. His passion in cartoon is to sketch out his views about the society, especially the political scenario and changes in Malaysia. In my interview, he asserts that ‘I like politics and to be involved in politics. It is about our own daily lives’ (Soon 2010: 20).
Zunar’s cartoons styles are clear-cut, bold and naked, (Malaysian) issue oriented, urbanised, satirical, and unashamedly only leaving a limited space for the readers to interpret. His cartoons cover a variety of issues such as the Malaysian judiciary system, human rights, corruption, money politics, freedom of speech, education, religion, ethnicity, and many others.
Zunar has increasingly become a ‘threat’ to the Malaysian state. His magazines were confiscated in August 2008 by the Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry. In June 2010, his book entitled 1Funny Malaysia together with another magazine, Perak Darul Kartun has been banned by the Home Ministry under the reason of ‘threat to national security’. Again, in 24 September 2010, Zunar was arrested at his office few hours before another of his book launching entitled 'Cartoon-O-Phobia’. Despite the arrest, the launching carried on without the author and the books!
Below are some of Zunar’s latest cartoons. Cartoons courtesy of Zunar and Malaysiakini.com. All Rights Reserved.
Soon, Chuan Yean (2010) ‘Zunar, the multifaceted cartoonist’, Aliran Monthly 30(4): 19-23.
Soon Chuan Yean was trained as a political scientist for his Bachelor’s degree at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Master’s degree at Uppsala University, Sweden. In his doctorate degree, he was exposed to area studies at the Southeast Asian Studies Programme, at National University of Singapore, which provided him a multilayered and multidisciplinary lens of viewing politics. He is now teaching Southeast Asian Politics at USM and is interested in the relationship between politics and popular culture, religion and politics especially in the Philippines, and Malaysian cultural politics.