6˚ of Separation: The child in us

Cross-post. Originally published online for JustHere.

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In our last interview Jassim Almass a 24-year-old Qatari graphic designer, recommended we interview Rashid Al Kuwari co-founder of Qartoon.

I started drawing on my maths and schools books. I didn’t pay much attention to the teacher. But by luck or not, I ended up as a cartoonist for a newspaper.

The best cartoons come without words so that people in any language understand the idea.

My grandparents tell me that the old souk used to have art and cartoons on the walls. But at the moment, in Qatar our culture puts cartoons at the end of the newspaper, and sees animation as the thing for children.

In Qartoon we are trying to build awareness of this culture and develop an art form which connects the worlds of adults and children. We use Qatari slang to express ourselves and many of the ideas we draw, getting inspiration from our own language. The Ministry of Culture recently encouraged us to hold a workshop at Katara. Thirty people came, most of them were women.

We produced a graphic novel which is a mixture of our culture and history, full of myths about demons. We have several demonic characters that eat children in our culture. So we built a story from this. The novel took a year to produce.

Sometimes we get resistance to the ideas we express. Once I drew a cartoon of women driving, which was in the style of a horror movie poster. A lot of ladies hated it. But I was just expressing a point of view.

We use cartoons with humour and irony to get our message across because a lot of people ignore traditional messages. We need to modernise our thinking and we want to challenge old world views – like the idea of women staying at home, or not having their own job – through our work.

The hardest thing I do is for the newspaper (Al Raya). Every day you have to come up with a new idea. Each page takes 4-5 hours to create. If you don’t have the concept in mind, it takes even longer. Routine prevents ideas from coming, so change is good.

I love the work of Hayao Miyazaki. He directed Spirited Away. And I’ve seen each one of his movies. Each one is a masterpiece. I went to Japan in 2009 just to learn about this culture and was amazed by what I saw, especially seeing an old man reading Manga on the subway.

I have the shadow of childhood following me. I watch cartoons and buys comics. I still like old cartoons like Sesame Street and I am really interested in Manga and Japanese comics and culture. I think, maybe, I am still a child.

For the next interview in this series Rashid recommends we talk to Fatmas Alnesf from the Al Jazeera Children’s Channel.

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