By day an architect and by night a bitingly critical cartoonist, ‘Z’ is a force to be reckoned with. His criticism of the previous Tunisian dictator Ben Ali meant he preferred to remain anonymous. And his continued criticism of the Tunisian government means that he will be ‘keeping his mask on’ for now. However, what appears to have inspired this architect-turned-cartoonist is the destructive force of development in the country which threatened the habitat of pink flamingoes. Z gave a rare interview to Samar Media about his work, the Arab Spring and why the pink flamingo became his mascot.
“My very first cartoons always featured pink flamingos. It has been my blog’s mascot until now,” says Z to Samar Media, which has produced a series on revolutionary cartoonist from the Arab world.
“Why pink flamingos? Because when I started drawing in 2008, there were projects in Tunisia that were supposed to be funded by Emiratis. Billions and billion of (touristic) projects were going to concrete the whole lake of Tunis… and I tried to raise awareness among the people about the environmental hazards of such a project, and the fact that there had been no consultation with the local residents.”
Sadly, this is a familiar story that appears to be affecting the entire Arab region. However, it is great to see a cartoonist taking an active interest in the environmentally harmful aspects of the boom-development projects. These projects so often end up being championed as job creating opportunities with very little attention paid to the long-term and environmental harmful aspects of the projects.
Z goes on to explain that what drew him to the story was that the age-old ecosystem which was under serious threat was to be taken by Ben Ali and his relatives. As such the situation had a particularly political slant and was a way for him to protest against the Tunisian regime and the extraordinary powers it held.
“You see here a protest of pink flamingos – they represent the oppressed citizens,” he explains to Samar Media. “The drawing was a trick to raise awareness among people about the dangers of the project and to talk about politics without directly mentioning the regime.”
:Hat tip to @arablit/ Arab Literature (in English)
:: All images via DebaTunisie.
For more on Tunisia and destructive development see: