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Imad Hajjaj A Campaigning Caricaturist

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“This word in Arabic refers to someth ing that is hidden and full with secrecy.” This is how Imad Hajjaj, the Palestinian Caricaturist defines his main caricature personality; Abu Mahjoob. Imad Hajjaj was born in Ramallah in 1967. He received Elementary Education at UNRWA schools at Al Wehdat Refugee Camp in Jordan. Imad received his First Award in 1974 in an elementary school competition.

Hajjaj joined Al Yarmouk University to study Physics, and then he turned to study Journalism and Graphic Design. His firstcaricaturewas published in the university newspaper (Sahafat Al Yarmouk) in 1987. After graduation, he worked for several local Jordanian newspapers, including Akher Khabar, Al Ahali, Al Raseef, Al Bilad, Al Mustaqbal, Al Dustour, and Al Rai. In 1992 he started working for the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, and then moved to work for Al Dustour.

Since 1993 Hajjaj has been working at the leading Jordanian daily Al Rai, until he was dismissed after one of his controversial caricatures in the year 2000. Then he worked for Al Dustour daily newspaper from the year 2000 till the mid of 2004. Now he is working with Al Ghad newspaper and Al Quds Al arabi (London). About his decision to make his talent and hobby in caricature as his permanent career, Hajjaj states: “everyone should love his profession and make it his hobby.”

What is your our own definition for Caricature?
It is the art of representing reality in an ironic way; it includes the artist’s vision for reality. Caricature is an art that combined between sarcasm and reality in an intensive and precise language that clarifiesto the audience - in brief - complicated message that needs long articles to explain it. 

To whome do you draw your caricatures?
I’m not drawing for specificaudiences. When I paint, I think in general and in full swing. However, after I give the finaltouchesforthe caricature, I judge it. I take into account my attitude and the editor-in-chief attitude towards it. Sometimes, the paint is terminated or modifiedandsometimesitpublished as I painted it in the firsttime.

In my caricatures, I try to attract the largest number of audience, and for that reason I make the caricature with multi-readings. By that it attracts all kinds of readers; headline readers, and thoughtful readers who search for details and what is between the lines.

Is the Caricaturist obligated to paint about the issues that are selected by the mass media?
No, it is not a necessity. The caricaturist is not a mirror that reflectswhat’sthemassmediasay.In my case specifically, themajorityof my caricatures which I published in newspapers have no relations to any of the headlines. They focused on existed issues which are not posed for discussion. Sometimes I make a campaign about an issue by painting about it several times. 

Which topics attract you more to paint about, social or political ones? Which of them give the Caricaturist more opportunities to gain success?
In my opinion, the political caricature is more artistic than the social one, and it is closer to the mere definitionofthisart,asitisontheverge of being vacant of statements. Whenever the caricature is without comment, it will be more concentrated and will consequently be better. So, the political caricature is in a contrast with the social caricature which includes meetings and conversations.

Also, the political caricature in many case approaches you further to the masses, particularly if there is a serious political event and you paint about it. Timing here is a crucial element that you have to take into consideration.

Moreover, the political caricaturist is more qualified to gain success, as the political events have the priority among the Arabic masses. Moreover, the Arab citizen is a political creature. Comparing with previous cases, the Palestinian caricaturist Naji Al-Ali’s only motif was an absolute political one; the Palestinian issue. His caricatures were unique and magnificent and they obtained a positive feedback among the Arab masses.

Which mass medium offers to you the chance to freely publish your caricatures?
Till now, the ideal medium for me to publish my caricature freely is the Internet. I have worked for several newspapers, none of them ,unfortunately, could publish all of my caricatures. For example, during the last Arab summit, one of my caricatures included portraits for some Arab leaders, Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper apologised of publishing it. The same caricature and after I published it on the Internet, it gained an excellent reaction from the audience.

Which of your caricatures exposure mostly to criticism?
Some of my caricatures had been banned from being published; I published them later in my own book. In addition, there is the caricature which as a result of it I have been fired from Al-Rai Newspaper. The administration of Al-Rai considered that by this caricature I caused a threat for the newspaper financialinterests,asthere was a commercial contract between the newspaper and Fast Link Company, the company which I criticised in my caricature. In my opinion, the caricature is part of journalism, so you will hear criticisms about your work. This is the difficult equation which faced caricaturist, how to achieve the highest level of freedom without loosing your job or even life, as in the case of Naji Al-Ali.

In many of your caricatures, you focus on the Palestinian issue, do you have a plan to publish or to make exhibition in Palestine?
There was a plan to arrange an exhibition for me in Ramallh in the end of the year 2000, but this plan was cancelled as a result of the outbreak of Al-Aqsa intifada. As I heard from people there, I think I have a high percentage of readers in Palestine, some of the local Palestinian newspapers publish my caricatures also. 

Hasan Hamarsha -

Hasan Hamarsha has a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Leicester, England and a BA in journalism and political science from Birzeit University, Palestine.


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