The Faces Behind Kenya’s Leading Cartoonists
Caricatures depicting politicians and the satirization of events in the society we live in always make for good humor for newspaper readers and TV audiences, thanks to the talent and creative genius of cartoonists. Cartoonists are arguably the fourth estate’s funny bone in a skeleton that is normally characterized by depressing events of public concern.
Among the celebrated cartoonists in Kenya, Godfrey Mwampembwa (GADO) who draws the editorial cartoons for the Nation Newspaper is the most famous. He is a native Tanzanian who left Ardhi Institute in Dar es Salaam early in his architectural training to become an editorial cartoonist and illustrator with the Nation Media Group in Nairobi. According to architecturekenya, Mwampembwa is the most syndicated Political/Editorial cartoonist in East and Central Africa. Some of his work has been published in a London Newspaper called The Guardian among other publications.
GADO, Mwampembwa’s pen name, is also a painter in oil and water colours and an avid fan of animation. He studied animation at Fabrica, a Communication Research Center in Treviso, Italy (1996-1997). The most notable animation television series that is associated with him in the Kenyan scene is the XYZ show which has aired on Citizen TV and Kiss TV.
XYZ , is a spoof newscast featuring latex puppets resembling popular political figures in Kenya, Africa and occasionally prominent world figures. It is a spinoff from a similar show in France, which GADO saw during an exhibition there, called “Les Guignols de l’Info.” He later came back to Kenya with the idea and worked on it through a painstaking process of lobbying donors and broadcasters, to finally screen the show first on Citizen TV in 2009.
“I normally try to avoid politicians, well mainly because I really do not have any burning desire to meet them, but I always enjoy watching them from far. The job of any editorial cartoonist is to provoke and discuss issues,” said GADO during an interview on CNN back in 2008.
Paul Kelemba alias Maddo, is a veteran cartoonist for the Standard Media Group where he draws weekly editorial cartoons about the week’s main events in his flagship column “It’s a Madd, Madd World.”
“The column has run continuously, uninterrupted, from 1989 when it first appeared on the Daily Nation as a black and white strip. The now full-page, full-colour, composite cartoon feature comments on political and social life with humorous but informative anecdotes,” writes Maddo on his website.
He also runs a medium-sized media company in Nairobi known as 4-Dimension Innovative with his colleagues GADO, James Khamawira alias Kham and Frank Odoi (who has since passed on). He has mounted several exhibitions, along with other media artists, at Alliance Française de Nairobi, Goethe Institut and the Japan Information & Culture Centre in Kenya.
According to Kelemba, “Madd World is the longest running column of its kind in the East African region. It is only beaten on the timeline by Edward Gitau’s Swahili humor strip, Juha Kalulu, created in the early 1960s.”
The column is very popular in Kenya and draws its fans from the Standard Newspaper as well as the online audience who can access it at the newspaper’s website.