THE main seminar room at JIAS is called the ‘Cartoon Room’. As its name suggests, it is decorated with cartoons by South African cartoonists, in a dynamic display that will change several times a year.
The director of JIAS, Prof Peter Vale, has commented as follows on this novel initiative:
‘At JIAS, we are constantly trying to think about the world in a different way. Cartoons are a unique way of understanding society, and these cartoons illuminate ours from a different perspective. Satire in particular is an important vehicle for social comment.
‘South Africa has developed an international reputation for producing some of the best cartoonists in the world. Our current crop of cartoonists are pushing the edges of their craft, and deepening our understanding of South African politics and society in the process.
‘We are currently displaying the work of several emerging Johannesburg cartoonists, like Yalo, Mgobhozi and Siwela, and more established ones, like Dov Fedler and Rico. These are high-resolution reproductions of the original artwork, which adds value to this dynamic collection. We will change the cartoons a few times a year, but the various sets of cartoons will not disappear from view – we are passing them on to other institutions which will exhibit them elsewhere.
‘On 21 March 2017, we hope to stage a seminar on how to understand cartoons in the context of their times. Among others, this will provide us with an opportunity to examine the role of satire in politics, including the issue of politically correct and incorrect cartoons, which has been hotly contested in South Africa in recent years.
‘‘This is not a gallery in the orthodox sense, but an opportunity for cartoonists to display their work, and for us to celebrate it. Ultimately, it provides us with an added tool for intellectual and critical enquiry.’