Comic books have a rich history in the Middle East.
For close to a century, Arab artists have created comics to reflect on the social and political happenings of their times. In the panels of Arab comics, we find illustrations and stories that creatively engage the British occupation of Egypt, the question of Palestine, the tide of pan-Arabism, authoritarian regimes in Iraq and Syria, commercialization in the Gulf, Civil War in Lebanon, uprisings across the region, and beyond.
ARAB COMICS is a traveling exhibition that explores the question of what, if anything, is distinctly "Arab" about this popular visual medium through three threads of original and translated comics in Arab countries, spanning from 1920s until today.
Artists and publishing houses in Arab countries have created original comics with tremendous regional popularity for nearly a century. This section features serial comics like Samir and Sindibâd
that have long united the imaginations of young audiences. Often whimsical and sometimes serious, comics often engage with events shaping Arab political experience in the 20th century.
As early as the 1940s, unidentified Arab illustrators began 'Arabizing' cultural comic book icons like Mickey Mouse, Superman and Tintin for Arab readers. The original covers and translated panels featured in this exhibit section highlight the range of creative approaches in this hybrid visual culture of comic book adaptation.
Recent work by comics illustrators in Lebanon’s "post-war" generation has moved comics beyond childhood fantasy to engage mature audiences and themes. This section features contemporary artists like Fouad Mezher, Lena Merhej, Omar Khouri, Zeina Bassil and Mazen Kerbaj who are reinventing the expectations of comics about, by and for Arabs worldwide.
Images, left to right:
Hussein Bicar, Sindibâd, 1952
Artist Unidentified, “Return to Palestine” Mîkî, 1964
Fouad Mezher and the Fdz, "The Fifth Column: A Homecoming,” 2013