- Title: Cartoonist Didier Kassai draws on the graphic reality of war in CAR.
- Date: 5th July 2017
- Summary: VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING DRAWING OF CHILD SOLDIER POINTING GUN AT OTHER CHILDREN DRAWING OF SOLDIERS POINTING GUNS AT EACH OTHER
- Embargoed: 19th July 2017 15:39
- Keywords: cartoons drawing painting conflict Didier Kassai
- Location: BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- City: BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- Country: Central African Republic
- Topics: Art,Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA0026OFXTUF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Didier Kassai works as he listens to the radio at his studio in the Central African Republic's (CAR) capital Bangui.
He is working on a yet untitled project.
Didier is one of his country's most prominent cartoonists and illustrators and uses his talent to discuss political, economic and social issues in CAR.
He says his illustrations are a powerful tool to draw attention to the atrocities that followed political turmoil in the country.
"Drawing for me is like a weapon, I use it to express myself. I decided to use it to denounce what happened in Central African at the beginning of 2013 against Seleka, which took power. For me, drawing as a unique way to inform people, both those in and outside Central Africa and those who are interested at what's happening in Central Africa. It's also a crisis that was badly covered by the international press," he said.
Central African Republic suffered the worst crisis in its history when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize in early 2013, triggering reprisals by Christian anti-balaka militias.
Months of reprisal killings between Muslims and Christians ensued until elections last year ushered in relative calm.
It is a heavy theme but Didier uses satire and comedy to convey often very serious commentary.
Political cartoons, especially those critical of the government and authorities have long been criminalized in CAR.
In 2015, Didier published his latest animated book 'Tempete sur Bangui", meaning Storm in Bangui, which was critically acclaimed in France and Canada.
In the book, Didier tackles the devastating effects of the conflict in CAR which has led to the death of thousands, about a fifth of the former French colony's 5 million people fleeing their homes, and rampant violations of human rights, including, sexual violence.
The self-taught illustrator says this has been his most important body of work.
"Each time I draw something, each time that I write a caption for my drawing, it's for the people to understand the consequences of the war and give them something to think about in order to avoid war again and prevent the suffering caused by it," he said.
Didier started out as a cartoonist with the local daily paper, Le Perroquet and has since won various awards for his work.
He has also worked in Lebanon, documenting life in the Burj el-Barajneh - a refugee camp set up in the 1940's to host Palestinians and more recently home to thousands fleeing Syria.
In Bangui, he trains young artists at the French Cultural Centre.
"I was born in an artistic family, just like Didier. I am the youngest in my family, and I started learning to draw at 5 years old. Now I am really good, thanks to Didier's help," said cartoonist, Francky Kassai.
"Didier's Kassai's reputation is well known throughout the country, because he has done a lot when it comes to comic books. He first became very popular in France with his first comic book called l'Odice de Mongou and recently has also used cartoons to describe the current political crisis in Central Africa which has also gained him popularity in France and that's what made Didier Kassai's reputation. He's a great cartoonist," said Herve Kangara, head of the mentorship programme at the French Cultural centre.
As renewed fighting swept over parts of the country in recent months, Didier said he is now focusing in more positive subjects to show people the potential of what life could be without war.
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