SA cartoonist wins major award

12 October 2005

South African cartoonist Zapiro is the winner of the principal award of the Prince Claus Fund for 2005.

The Netherlands-based Prince Claus Fund makes a number of awards annually to “support artistic and intellectual initiatives of high quality and strong social commitments”. The principal award carries a prize of €100 000 (about R800 000).

Zapiro is the alias of 47-year-old Jonathan Shapiro.

‘Out of the blue’

“I am not quite sure what I felt when I heard the news. Bewilderment and disbelief, I think,” Shapiro told the Mail & Guardian Online last week.

“It came out of the blue!”

“Zapiro has been granted this award in recognition of his role in stimulating social and cultural development,” the Prince Claus Fund said in a statement.

“The satire of his striking cartoons scrutinises the current social and political realities of South Africa, the African continent and the global arena.”

The prize will be awarded in Amsterdam on 7 December.

Since 1997 the Prince Claus Awards have been presented annually to artists, thinkers and cultural organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Zapiro is not the first South African to be recognised by the awards. The District Six Museum in Cape Town were recipients of an award in 2003, Bush Radio and the Film Resource Unit in 2000, and artist David Koloane in 1998.

Editorial cartoonist

Shapiro studied architecture at the University of Cape Town before switching to graphic design.

Conscripted into the South African Defence Force, Shapiro joined the United Democratic Front, a broad anti-apartheid grouping.

He was detained by the security police in 1988, before leaving the country to take up a Fulbright Scholarship at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he studied under Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.

Since 1994 Zapiro has been the editorial cartoonist for both the Sowetan and the Mail & Guardian. His cartoons also appear in the Sunday Times.

In 2001 he won a category prize in the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards, the first cartoonist to do so. Nine collections of his work have been published, as well as several exhibitions.

“With the kind of thought I put in my cartoons and with the progressive agendas I’ve tried to follow while being involved in different organisations, I contribute to the debate and the kind of thinking that changes things,” Shapiro said.

SAinfo reporter

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo material