Ahlam Oun: “Ali Shehab: A Bahraini Artist Drawing Outside the Red Lines”
The 14Feb Revolution inspired by the Arab Spring was able to liberate Bahraini Artists to express their art freely without boundaries dictated by the regime.
Among those artists is Cartoonist Ali Shehab who is known as “Ali Cartoon”. Ali explained the transformation of his art post 14Feb by saying: “There are no redlines in my paper anymore, my pen is finally liberated.”
Before the crackdown Ali and his fellow artists were able to communicate their art via a direct contact with protestors at the Pearl Roundabout but today, it’s an entirely different situation. Ali explains: “The security situation today does not allow artist to have a safe platform to exhibit their art or form a group and our only way to communicate with the public is via social media.”
Social media became the main source of communication for the revolution’s activities something that kept the government clueless on how to handle it especially with no clear rules and regulations in the judiciary system. Ali continues: “Last month, the President of Bahrain Human Rights Center, Nabeel Rajab, was arrested because of a tweet criticizing the Prime Minister. I bet the blunt cartoons I create and post on my twitter have already put me on the target list. My arrest could happen any moment using any of my tweeted cartoons.”
In spite of the security threats Ali did not change the topics he draws about yet he became selective, he explains: “The big picture about this brutal regime is already known to all, this is why I started to choose stories and cases which requires more attention. Some organizations send me requests to draw a cartoon that they will be using in a campaign or during a protest, this puts my art for a greater cause.”
The latest cartoon Ali made was to support a Bahraini, Jaffar Salman, who is in prison for protesting and almost blind after police fired directly at his face. His cartoon was printed and used during a protest.
The shift in mentality due to the excessive use of social media inspired Ali to plan an artistic project, he elaborates: “People are now more interested in flashy news in 140 characters and visuals like photos or videos. They don’t read long posts or blogs as before. This has inspired me to work on a new project, an art book. I am planning to write a book explaining the events happened in Bahrain since 14Feb till date not by using long paragraphs but by using sketches and cartoons.”
The planned book as Ali explained, will use less words and more visual to attract international attention by breaking the language barrier. He seemed very excited about the book yet he finished his sentence by saying something all Bahraini activists say: “… unless I get arrested.”
Follow Ali Shehab on Twitter : @AliCartoon
Ahlam Oun is a Bahraini youth activist and a blogger. She is involved in the society by initiating youth development projects on volunteerism; public speaking and leadership. She is the founder of “Mumayaz, Inspiring Youth” and she worked at “Search for Common Ground” at the Partners in Humanity department.
After the 14Feb Revolution in Bahrain, Ahlam started blogging under her real name after being anonymous since 2008. She mainly writes in English with primary interest on issues related to youth rights, stories of the injustice and Human Rights violations.blog comments powered by Disqus