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Keeping a Sharp Eye

| March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

A Century of Cartoons on South Africa’s International Relations: 1910–2010

Author: Peter Vale
Publisher: Otterley Press
ISBN: 978-0-9814315-3-6
Reviewed by Mark Henning

Zapiro has made his mark in South Africa through his trenchant, witty and bold cartoons, syndicated in leading South African newspapers. Thousands of readers look forward each day to see which event will be his particular target, and how he will expose the follies of politicians through the laughter of common folk. The symbols and metaphors he uses make powerful political statements.

Older readers will be aware that Zapiro stands on the shoulders of many cartoonists, noteworthy in their times for using visual images to capture the essence of policies and politicians: the works of cartoonists like Abe Berry, Bob Connolly, Jock Leyden, Brendan Reynolds, Len Sak and many others were well known.

What is the result of their efforts? A reader’s first reaction is to smile as a cartoon is introduced that shows the sharp eye and wit of the artist. With each cartoon, Vale has a comment on the work and times of the cartoonist, and briefly sets the context. Although a well-known academic, he has avoided using the technical language that makes reading learned works so boring. Here, academic research is brought to the reader in a most accessible way. Of course, commenting on cartoons has become a standard examination test and this book will undoubtedly be of value to matriculants, never less than through its examples of how to comment on cartoons. However, more importantly, it will be a delight to read and to introduce discussions.

Certainly, every teacher of South African history should have a copy and their pupils should at least have access to one. However, its greatest appeal will be to non-historians and those finished with examinations, such as this reviewer. Both cartoons and notes are captivating.

Category: Autumn 2012

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