The Cartoonist

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In her cartoon world in shades of vivid colours, Zina Muffarij sketches Lebanese society with characters that form the stereotypical families nowadays. Her sketches are youthful, witty, funny, ironic, and a true mirror of the society we live in. Little Coussouma, one of my favorite characters, who happens to be the house maid, skips through twisted comical scenes with an irony so skillfully agile, that although carry a poignant point, are rendered wittily satirical.

Her book opens with a panoramic view of Beirut, depicting every aspect of life in this active and chaotic city. Her epic world is drawn in such a manner that its effects pop out of nowhere, where every detail can be seen, and every sound can be heard. The title “ikht hal balad … Chou B7ebbo!” (In lebnaese terms something like, Fuck this country…. how I love it) expresses the rest of her stories. Mufarrij, like most of us, has a love-hate relationship with Lebanon, and an inimitable way of expressing it. Her cartoons portray Lebanese society critically and with bluntness, but also with wit and humor. Being a cartoonist, for Zina, is about story telling through characters, a bit like writing a theatrical piece. Like one of her characters, BZZZ the business fly, her eyes are meticulously dissecting the ironies of our societies.

Cartoonists are the court jesters of modern times. They can get away with things that others can’t because of their endearing little drawings. Zina draws cartoons about our mundane existence extracting the flavors of its irony. Drawing the uncommon of the common man, her cartoons take on a life of their own. Madam, another one of my favorites characters, is a hard-working mother of three, working hard all day, giving Coussouma house-cleaning instructions such as organizing breakfasts and dinners and taking care of every aspect of her life, while she sits on her couch. Every small detail of this contradictory society we live in is noted painstakingly. She doesn’t shy away from caricaturing the racism, snobbery, and irony of some situations with a subtle hand of wittiness.

Characters held captive by the ink, designed by this artist with the sharp razor eye of a theatre director, turning each thought and moves of her characters into a mischievous public scene. Making faces to look silly for others where simple actions are super-exaggerated, Zina adds to my world some color in the most epic and exciting way.

Cartooning is about deconstruction, you’ve got to tear something down to make a joke of it. What Zina draws is really more than a comic for fun; it is the revolutionary expression by the new generation, a revolution done with humor and sarcasm, something that we are quiet known for and love.

At the end of the day, I truly believe that laughing is the best remedy. Through those little menageries of scenes full of wittily delight, where every aspect of Lebanese life and the city from its smallest details are meticulously drawn, her hand portrays a society that is both sensible and caring with stark contrasts to its judgmental and racists attitudes in general.

These are 2 of my favorite little anecdotes, the internet one I find hilarious as it reminds me of that night I was writing a post on this blog about how amazing Lebanon is and suddenly the electricity got cut off and I went “kisssssssssss… hal ballad…” the second one is a true caricature of a lebanese mom… I absolutely love them!

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