If there is one thing that can bring Lebanese people together, it is their ability to laugh at their shared misfortunes.
This week marked the second anniversary of Stavro’s passing. For those who grew up in Lebanon in the 90s, Stavro is a household name associated with wittiness and humor.
More commonly known by his first name alone, Stavro Jabra is a world-renowned cartoonist and illustrator. Born in Beirut on February 18, 1947, the satirist and activist lived a significant portion of Lebanon’s eventful political history. He was therefore both a witness to the turmoil and a documenter of it.
For forty years, Stavro’s work reflected topical news in Lebanon and the Middle East. He was published in Lebanese newspapers as well as international ones like Der Spiegel, Jeune Afrique, Le Monde, Le Courrier International, and the New York Times.
But Stavro is not the only noteworthy caricaturist in the Lebanese art scene. Far from it, actually. Here are some names you might recognize from the golden age of Lebanese illustrated journalism:
#1 Pierre Sadek
Credited as the Father of Lebanese Caricature, Pierre Sadek is a pioneer in regional satirical sketch and caricature. His award-winning work was featured in several Lebanese and Arabic dailies such as Annahar and Ad-Diyar. He was also published internationally in various outlets such as Associated Press, Time Magazine, Le Matin, and The Washington Post.
Well-known for his rebellious attitude and his continuous thirst for freedom, Sadek was inspired by the numerous events in Lebanon; events he highlighted using an innovative style and a character named Touma (Thomas) that he created to represent the Lebanese citizen.
Sadek was the first illustrator to have his caricatures animated and televised. He started a trend many caricaturists would soon follow.
Fun Fact: Sadek was so well known and liked that it was rumored that after periods of hiatus, he would often receive phone calls from politicians inquiring why he hasn’t made fun of them for a while.
Sadek is the highest-decorated artist in Lebanon. He is the recipient of the National Order of the Cedar, the Grade of Knight by President Suleiman Frangieh in 1972, the Grade of Officer by President Elias Hrawi in 1997, and the Grade of Commander by President Michel Suleiman in 2012.
#2 Elie Saliba
Saliba has had a daily column in Al-Watan and Addiyar newspapers for more than 9 years. His entertaining sketches depict the political situation of Lebanon while focusing on the economic crisis and its damaging consequences on the country.
Despite his young age (he was born in Beirut in 1967), Saliba often expresses himself via a “senior citizen”, a character that he created to symbolize the maturity of experienced Lebanese citizens.
The “senior citizen” of his cartoons is tall, heavily mustached, and usually wears a traditional costume. In other words, he is the image of a typical Lebanese senior: Experienced and quick to voice his opinions.
With innovative drawing styles, Saliba often includes political celebrities drawn with great detail especially around the area of the face and its features.
#3 Habib Haddad
An experienced cartoonist, Haddad is known for a style characterized by mindfulness and great vivacity. He draws freely, rarely using words or sentences, to criticize policies.
At the starts of the civil war in 1975, Haddad was forced to immigrate to France, where he pursued his artistic career as a silent satiric caricature artist.
His unique and innovative drawing style has won him 17 local and international awards such as the Arab Journalism Award for Comics (Dubai 2002), and the St-Just-le-Martel award 2009 ( Limoges, France).
In 2008, he was selected to be part of the jury for the World Press Cartoon competition that took place in Portugal.
In addition to politics, Haddad tackles many international issues such as pollution and the greed of multinational corporations.
#4 Diran Agemian
Diran was a pioneer caricaturist in Lebanon, one who had a major role in establishing caricature as an independent form of art. Through his work, caricature took on its esteemed place in the Lebanese press.
His mixed origins and diverse orientations fueled his art. For instance, Diran was a fan of the caricaturist Bosch whom he considered a master of his field, as well as the French Sennep whom he considered an idol.
His work was published in several newspapers, including L’orient and La Syrie.
He was particularly famous for his Abu Tannous character, a fictional political speaker known for his popular wisdom, and which appeared in Al Dabbur magazine where Diran worked for 28 years.
Diran was also known for his Ghantous adventurer character that appeared in Le Soir newspaper in 1950.
In 1996, Diran was awarded a posthumous commemorative medal by the French government for his volunteering services in Free France (France Libre).