Can Cartoons Build Peace?

Political cartoons are often viewed as entertainment, but could cartoons also be used to build peace?

The power of graphic art has long been recognized.

"If we go all the way back to World War I, the US government took political cartooning so seriously that it established a bureau of cartooning," said Dr Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Festival's like Graphic Brighton look at conflict and resolution in comics, such as cartoonists' roles in the Arab Spring, and Kate Evan's depictions of anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg. Graphic Brighton curator Alex Fitch said war comics play an important role in our culture, and can bring the experience of conflict to readers in a way that text alone cannot. Comic books are being used to connect with youth to warn them of the realities of war, and they can give a voice to minorities in conflict. For example, the influential Maus by Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman, and the story of comic book pioneer Lily Renee in Escape Artist both bring genocide survivor stories to life.

"Graphic novels, especially in recent years, that have dealt with subjects such as the Holocaust or genocide, have increased sensitivity," said Dr Medoff.

Given that cartoonists are often at the center of controversy, however, is there a danger in war and peace comics?

"Ultimately it's in the hands of the creator, in other words the cartoon is just the instrument. The cartoonist has the ability to use his or her artistic and cartooning skills for good or bad, Dr Medoff said.

"There's nothing more important in the world than peace," he said.

"I would like to hope that comic book creators, artist and writers, can play some small role."

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