Neda al-Watan, the PFLP’s Arabic-language newspaper published monthly in the West Bank and Gaza, conducted an interview with Brazilian cartoonist and artist Carlos Latuff, who is well known for his graphics and cartoons in support of the Palestinian struggle, for its September 2009 issue. Read the full interview in English below:
Neda al-Watan Question: What inspired you to become a cartoonist? How did you become involved with the struggle to free Palestine and how did Palestine become the subject of so much of your work?
Carlos Latuff: Since my childhood my dream was to be an artist. I used to spend hours in front of the television watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons. After 1990, I started to produce cartoons for Leftist union papers but not for political reasons, just as a professional. Until my contact with the Zapatista Movement in 1997 through the Internet, I wasn’t engaged in any political cause. Then, after a trip to the West Bank, invited by Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy in Ramallah in 1999, seeing Israeli checkpoints, Israeli soldiers all around and, specially, after meeting a man called Adris in Hebron, I decided to embrace the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
Question: What do you see as the role of the artist in the struggle for liberation and social justice? How do you view your own work in this context?
Latuff: Perhaps (I say perhaps, since I’m not sure how exactly my art can affect people) the cartoons I make can serve the social and political struggles decoding complex political issues and presenting them in a way more easy to understand for everyone, including the common populace. I hope my cartoons can serve the people as a loaded AK-47 serves a guerilla.
Question: Your work has been enthusiastically adopted by the Palestinian and Palestine solidarity movement, internationally. What is it about your work that you believe has hit a chord among Palestinians and their supporters?
Latuff: Perhaps it is that I am not myself a Palestinian, yet I have embraced the cause in a passionate way. I think people just forgot what internationalism is all about. Another aspect is that, since the pro-Israel lobby is always harassing anyone who dare to raise a voice against the massacre of the Palestinians, people tend to belive I’m courageous. But definitely it’s not a matter of being courageous.
The point is, having such powerful and influential enemies, the Palestinians are in need of any kind of support, and if I have a talent and this talent can be useful for the Palestinian people, then I will put my art and skills at their service, because the Palestinian cause is also the human cause.
Question: Your work has often featured recurring characters or symbols – like Mother Palestine, a determined elderly Palestinian woman. What are some of the recurring characters or symbols you use in your work, and how do you view the importance of these characters or symbols in communicating your ideas?
Latuff: Humankind always worked with symbols, as Carl Gustav Jung stated in his book “Man and His Symbols”. Mother Palestine, as well the famous Handala, are archetypes, they are graphic representations of Palestinian people. Since I’m always trying to make complex concepts into simple ideas, I will use images, symbols, to communicate more easily with a wide audience.