by EDWARD TSUMELE, The Sowetan

Sowetan cartoonist, YaloI HAVE always wondered that no matter how streetwise, cunning, smart and calculating politicians appear to be, they all seem to get it wrong when it comes to stand-up comedy and cartoons.

How does one explain, their failure to stem the flow of material that inevitably leads to their caricature?

Surprisingly, politicians often attend comedy festivals and concerts where they roll with the punches and have a laugh despite being on the receiving end of ridicule.

I used to wonder whether these politicians are as smart as they think. In newspaper columns, cartoonists have over centuries made a meal of these political characters without consequences or a huge political backlash.

But all this came to an end just a few years ago, when political cartoonists in general, particularly Jonathan Shapiro, popularly known as Zapiro, flew into a political storm when he created the cartoons involving President Jacob Zuma.

Now one sharp-minded cartoonist, whose work is fast making an impression on the political realm in the country, and is fast consolidating his foothold on political commentary scene is our very own Sifiso Yalo.

Softly spoken, with modest mannerism, you would bet that he would not hurt a fly. But his pencil is one of the sharpest and merciless when it comes to regular caricature of the country's political figures.

"I have had as my subjects in the paper, people like Julius Malema, Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Robert Mugabe among others.

"But the politicians that really launched me as a political cartoonist include Thabo Mbeki and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

"I mean, politicians are the ones who invite us into their lives because of the mistakes they make," says Yalo, one of the most dedicated newspapermen I have had the privilege to encounter.

When asked about his habit of being one of the first people in the office every day, Yalo's retort was quick and as witty as the cartoons that have come to characterise the man: "Just to work before the madness sets in."

I understood what he meant, being an early riser myself. Not that Sowetan newsroom is made up of people who should be at a mental hospital.

Being a cartoonist leading a one-man department is surely a lonely job?

"Not exactly. You know I always consult with writers to understand the full picture of a breaking story. Ideas for cartoons come mostly from major stories dominating the media at a particular time.

"However, sometimes the ideas come from observing ordinary things happening in life.

"For example, I am working on the story of the decimation of rhinos," says Yalo, a winner of several awards.

He was a regional winner of the Vodacom cartoonist of the year in 2006 and snatched the coveted national prize the following year, cementing his position in the tight circle of winners such as Zapiro.

"My inspiration and people that I have looked up to since the time I was studying for a diploma in fine art at the Durban Institute of Technology included Zapiro, Dr Jack and the creators of Madam and Eve," he says.

After the interview it felt like I was in a political class for cartoonists.

Yalo is taking part in an exhibition called Cartoons in Context, opening at Museum Afrika, Newtown on October 20.

He will share this political and artistic space with luminaries in the trade such as Zapiro, Abe Berry and Dov Fedler.

The exhibition will also feature works by early British satirists Isaac and George Cruikshank.

Posted on Sep 24, 2010 by Africartoons Bookmark and Share