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BEIRUT: Artists specializing in caricature and comics from Iraq, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine have been distinguished in the different categories of the seventh Mahmoud Kahil Prize, awarded by the Mu’taz and Rada Sawwaf Arab Comics Initiative at the American University of Beirut.
The political cartoon category, the largest of the prizes and worth $10,000, was won by Raafat Ahmed Al-Khatib, a Jordanian artist currently residing in the United States.
The graphic novels category was won by Buraq Rima, a Lebanese artist living in Brussels, for his novel “By Taxi”.
The Egyptian Mohammed Salah wins the comics prize for the second time, in recognition of his excellence, his imagination and his remarkably developed style.
The Lebanese Karen Kayrouz won the prize for graphic and expressive cartoon.
The children’s book illustration award was won by Palestinian artist Baraa Ahmed Ismail Al-Aaw for his book “A Chasing”. She arrived in Beirut to receive her prize from the Gaza Strip, despite all the obstacles.
Iraqi artist Ali Mandlawi received the honorary “Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievements” award.
This award is given to those who have spent a quarter of a century or more in the service of the art of comics, expressive drawing and political cartooning.
The honorary “Patron of Arab Comics” award, which recognizes those who broadly support comics and caricature in the Arab world and thus contribute to the cultural heritage of the region, was awarded to the Sakaf Kaf project from Morocco.
A special honorary award was given to Palestinian-Lebanese-British journalist Jihad Al-Khazen, who served as editor of Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat newspapers.
Al-Khazen has been one of the founders and supporters of the award since its inception. His wife received the award on his behalf because he was unable to attend due to illness.
Rada Sawwaf said that “despite the difficulties and sufferings of the past two years and the difficult economic and health conditions, the initiative was able to continue and communicate with all the artists in the Arab world to reflect the best image of Lebanon”.
She said that “the initiative has been a precursor in organizing the first virtual exhibition of its artists in 2021, and we have reached international universities in the French city of Lyon and participated in international conferences and exhibitions in Angoulême. .
“The Bright Space in Lebanon has enabled innovators to develop the art of comics and comics through academic courses at American University and participation in international conferences, workshops and meetings.”
The director of the initiative at the American University of Beirut, Dr Lina Ghaiba, said: “Despite the emergence of issues of social injustice, regional crises and political figures, the coronavirus pandemic has been the subject dominant in this year’s political cartoon category, which was expressed by a face mask as a symbol of global disease and the pandemic.
“We also saw work on the Lebanese economic crisis and local and regional corruption issues, as well as the issue of the forced eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the plight of the population.”
Ghaiba said that “self-reflection and human inward orientation are among the most important common characteristics of the works submitted for the prize in various categories”.
The award ceremony was accompanied by the vernissage of an art exhibition of various caricatures and comics with more than 120 works from various art schools.
The initiative has launched its annual book, which contains 150 drawings and texts by the winners.
The jury included Julie Tait, founding director of the International Lakes Festival of Comic Art in the UK; Noha Habib, illustrator working between Doha and Tunisia and one of the founders of the Tunisian comics magazine LAB619, launched in 2013; twin cartoonists Haitham and Mohammed El-Sahat, Egyptian comics artists and lecturers, who founded Garage Comics and won several awards, including the Mahmoud Kahil Prize in 2019; and George Khoury (Gad), art critic and one of the pioneers of comics in the Arab world, who has received numerous awards.
Two of Gad’s works, “A Thousand and One Nights” and “Scheherazade”, have been selected for the permanent collection of the International Comics Museum in Angoulême, France.
Lebanese artist Mahmoud Kahil (1936-2003), whose name bears the name, was one of the most prominent cartoonists in the Arab world.
The Mu’taz and Rada Sawwaf Arab Comics Initiative was established in 2014 to encourage comic art in the Arab world, promote multidisciplinary research on Arab comics, encourage its production, study and teaching, and create a repository for Arabic comics publications.