The Mu’taz and Rada Sawwaf Arabic Comics Initiative held its second Annual Mahmoud Kahil Award Ceremony on March 1, 2017. The ceremony was preceded by a symposium entitled Framing War and Conflict in Comics, a press conference announcing the 2016 award winners, and a week-long exhibition of the works submitted by artists participating in the award competition.
“In this second year of the award, we continue to be amazed by the comics, editorial cartoons, and illustration art that is coming out of the Arab world: both the abundance of it and the quality and creativity displayed,” said Lina Ghaibeh, Director of the Arabic Comics Initiative and associate professor at the Department of Architecture and Design at AUB. “Contemporary artists from all over the Arab world…continue to churn out cutting edge work that deals with their dreams, hopes and desires, as well as their suffering and their daily struggles; exhibiting an engagement previously less articulated.”
Following a call by the Initiative for participation in the pan-Arab competition, over 256 submissions were made from 12 Arab nations: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. The comics, illustrations, and editorial cartoons told countless stories – some humorous, some very painful, but all very truthful – about today’s reality, particularly in the Arab world. Six renowned editorial cartoonists, authors, designers, art historians, academics, and artists served as jury members that evaluated the competing artwork, in addition to eight advisory board members
Five awards were granted within the following categories: Editorial Cartoons (won by Doaa Al Adl from Egypt), Graphic Novels (won by Fouad Mezher from Lebanon), Comic Strips (won by Othman Selmi from Tunisia), Graphic Illustrations (won by Muhammad Mustafa from Egypt), and Children’s Book Illustration (won by Maya Fidawi from Lebanon).
In addition, two honorary awards were granted, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for Habib Haddad, a 72-year-old self-taught artist from Tripoli, Lebanon, who recently retired from 25 years of working at Al Hayat newspaper. Haddad continues to live from his art and has participated in dozens of international festivals and art galleries since 1991, receiving over 16 international awards over the years.
The Comics Guardian Honorary Award was given to CairoComix Festival, which develops the independent movement of comics in Egypt and, on a larger scale, the Middle East and North Africa. It celebrates local and international art-gathering readers, painters, and writers. “We, in the Arab region, need this type of support for free thought in art,” said Magdy ElShafei, creator of the first Egyptian graphic novel “Metro” and one of the founders of CairoComix Festival. “We are independent artists who want to promote independent work, for it is only independent work that remains real and can reach the people.”
“Graphic creativity often surpasses the eloquence of speech and the painting brush holds within it a most powerful revolution,” said Mrs. Rada Sawwaf. “Mahmoud Kahil, immortalized today, continues to bring together aficionados of all types of comics and encourage new and extraordinary talents. Just like Kahil brought Arabic comics to the world, we aim, in his spirit, to showcase the immense talents in our region in international festivals in the very near future.”
Arab Comics Symposium
Earlier in the week, the Arab comics symposium, “Framing War and Conflict in Comics,” brought together local and international specialists in the field, researchers and practitioners, around the issues and representation of war and conflict in graphic narratives, with a strong emphasis on comics from the Arab world.
Named in honor of the Lebanese political cartoonist who familiarized the world with the Arab reality, the Mahmoud Kahil Award, like the annual symposium on comics, is organized by the Mu’taz and Rada Sawwaf Arabic Comics Initiative, an academic body for the study of Arabic comics under the Provost’s Office at AUB promoting interdisciplinary research, production, scholarship and teaching of Arabic comics, in addition to the development and maintenance of a repository of Arabic Comics literature. Mu’taz Sawwaf, a graduate in architectural engineering from AUB’s Class of ’74, has been a trustee of the University since 2014 and is a connoisseur of comic arts, a collector, and accomplished illustrator.
“We in academia have to lead the way in giving proper recognition to these artistic and cultural expressions that deserve far more attention than they may otherwise receive,” said President Fadlo Khuri at the Awards ceremony. “It is important to think about the power and the messages they send, messages of free thought, of heroism, of bravery against oppression, and of laughter and of happiness in difficult circumstances. We at AUB want to foment nothing less than another cultural awakening emanating out of Ras Beirut, another Nahda, and we believe that the Mahmoud Kahil Awards and the Sawwaf Arabic Comics Initiative are very important resources in building towards that objective.”