Mention Godfrey Mwapembwa,Paul Kelemba,and Patrick Gathara and chances are, the three names might not receive any immediate cognisance.
Gado and Maddo are however household names in Kenya for their newspaper cartoon drawings.
Patrick Gathara who has not enjoyed alot of newspaper prominence has now become the online cartoonist sensation and has ventured where most Kenyan Cartoonists haven’t, the blogosphere.
One can safely say that Kenyan cartoons are as old as the Kenyan newspapers if not older. The older Kenyan generation can vividly remember characters like Bogi Benda,Juha Kalulu and many others who premiered in newspapers and later became book publications.
But times are changing and the internet is changing almost everything including the media that cartoonists are using to share their thoughts.
I first came to know Patrick Gathara through his powerful depiction of ‘Will draw for food’ a cartoon drawing that seems to tell you the poor state that most artists are in with most still in the survival stage. One can also instantly note the satire in the drawing – that Africans are always poor and that he(Gathara) does not mind drawing if only to get a plate of food.
This particular cartoon also happens to be the title image of his self titled book which received good reviews and is available for sale in most leading Kenyan bookshops.
Gathara is a self-taught cartoonist. His cartoons regularly cover local and international politics and current affairs, and distills pointed dissent into scathing images and commentary. His cartoons have been published in leading Kenyan newspapers, exhibited in Europe and Asia. In 2004, he received a Special Award for Caricature during the 6th World Cartoon Conference held in Beijing, China and was also recognized for his contribution to Kenyan cartooning during the National Youth Convention in 2008.
Gathara is currently the General Secretary of the Association of East African Cartoonists.
The one thing that makes Gathara stand out from many other Kenyan Cartoonists is his presence online and his use of blogs in showcasing his work.
Gathara’s World – Freshly Squeezed brain Juice is quite a befitting title for one of his many blogs. This particular one which was started in the year 2006 features all his cartoons on different subjects and themes. He also includes narrations, not of the cartoon drawing, but the situation/subject matter. The cartoon drawing only serves to further emphasize his written thoughts.
Foot in mouth is another of Gathara’s blogs and one need not ask what is it about after reading the blogs subheader.
Kenyan Politicians (and others) Speak from the Heart of their Bottoms (Disengage Brain, Open Mouth, Insert Foot)
ScaryCature is another of Gathara’s blogs(talk of a dedicated blogger!). This particular one features random lines from his pen most of which are cartoon drawings unlike Gathara’s world. It was also started in the year 2006 and features various characters ranging from Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama,Michael Schumacher, Oprah Winfrey, and even Rupert Murdoch.
From his caricature of famous local and international faces, one can clearly tell that Gathara is undoubtedly one of Africa’s best cartoonists. And his blogs have definitely put him in the global scene.Gathara studied physics and math at Moi University in Nairobi, Kenya. And as he says, ee played too much rugby, drank too much beer and spent too little time in the lecture hall and the library. He therefore has great faith in man's ability to better himself. Gathara enjoys, cooking, rugby, football, scrabble, travel, debates, current affairs, classical music, cartooning and physics
He also sometimes blogs on African Path.
KenyaToons is a blog that is has been setup and is used in disseminating News from The Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI) on the Kenyan Cartooning Scene.
In it you will find posts on call for submissions to various international cartoonist competitions and festivals, Cartoon book launches, announcements on winners, upcoming exhibitions and any other information that is relevant to Kenyan cartoonists. The blog also provides links to many other Kenyan cartoonist bloggers like Kenny Toonz
His blog, Kenny Toonz is a personal online diary in cartoon form. It however seems like Kenny had taken a 2 year hiatus with his last post being on 14th Dec 2006.
Kennedy also runs African Cartoonists League, a blog on Cartooning News of Continental Concern.
It seems like he had also taken a 2 year break on this blog as well and we hope that he can resume the great work that he has started.
It took me quite a while to get information on some of these cartoonists, information that is readily available collectively on the African Cartoonists league blog.
The shikwekwes is a blog by Litu who has been running it from March 2008.
The blog’s name is taken from a famous comic strip that he started in early 2002. This how he describes his entry into cartoon drawing
I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, and I have been drawing cartoons ever since I can remember. After consulting my local witchdoctor, I was told that I could not live unless I consistently drew cartoons. Hence, ‘The Shikwekwes’.
His short comic ‘The Watchdog’ was featured in Africa e Mediterraneo’s Award for best unpublished comic strip by an African author. A PDF version of the comic can be found here
Litu is one of many African cartoonists who are venturing in animation after years of drawing cartoons.
It is the hope of many cartoon lovers that Kenyan and African cartoonists will be able to embrace the digital age and breathe life into their drawings to give us superb African Animations.