Don’t Joke: The Year in Cartoons at the Book Lounge
by Andy Mason, John Curtis
The launch of Don’t Joke: The Year in Cartoons at the Book Lounge was one of the last events of the year at the popular bookshop – but true to form, it was packed out. Andy Mason, with co-editor John Curtis, spoke of the rapid course of events leading to the book’s publication.
Back in May, just seven months ago, Mason made a call to fellow political cartoonists to join him at the (now relocated) Olive Station in Muizenberg. There a group that called themselves the Jesters’ Space enjoyed one another’s company, showing slides of their work and making rash promises to establish a community of cartooning practitioners. They also dreamed of collaborating in a combined annual that would show the diversity of their styles and humour.
Following this informal gathering, Mason spoke to Keith Dietrich, head of Stellenbosch University’s department of visual arts, and the dream became reality, quickly and effortlessly, as very soon the Centre for Comic, Illustrative and Book Arts (CCIBA) was established. Mason paid tribute to Dietrich’s efforts for creating the enabling conditions of this vital initiative.
Just a month later, Mason spoke to Bridget Impey of Jacana at the Cape Town Book Fair, proposing the annual publication. By July the decision had been taken to go ahead – and the book had to be launched in time for Christmas! The next few weeks were “an impossible task” wherein the duo of Curtis and Mason whittled more than 3000 cartoons into a selection of 387 by 29 different artists with a wide range of styles and graphic approaches.
Mason said that all South Africa’s top political cartoonists were represented in the book, with one notable exception. “That irrascible curmudgeon, Dov Fedler, chose not to participate and so, with very real regret, we missed one of the greatest South African political cartoonists of all times,” he said.
The two co-editors went on to welcome the cartoonists present at the event and handed them each a contributor’s copy of the book. Thereafter a slideshow was presented with many of the cartoons in the book shown on screen.
Zapiro – doubtless South Africa’s most famous cartoonist – paid special tribute to Curtis and Mason for their contribution by way of the publication. He said, “John is a fantastic ‘ideas’ man who provides wonderful ideas for many of us. When that blank piece of paper is staring up at you, it’s good to have John at the other end of the phone.
Andy Mason, meanwhile, “is a goldmine for South African cartoonists.” Hear-hear!