WINDHOEK -The cartoon of the naked Swapo Secretary General Sophia Shaningwa which was a hot topic for discussion has been received with mixed reactions, with some quarters describing it is as distasteful while some say it is part of democracy and freedom of speech.
Shaningwa was depicted as naked after she conveyed directives from the top leadership of Swapo that dictated on who should be elected as mayor, deputy mayor and other office bearers at Rundu and Okahandja where those instructed refused to implement the imposition.
Shaningwa explained the decision to recall party councilors at Rundu and Okahandja -which was reversed last week came after marathon meeting by the party’s top four and was not an arbitrary by her, as it was widely asserted.
Some members of the public went as far as making statements to boycott The Namibian and there were even plans to march against the newspaper that was accused for being sexist over the cartoon.
Former media and journalism lecturer at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) Unomengi Kauapirura stated that whether to appreciate cartoon work or not is not an issue. Kauapirura explained appreciation must come out of knowledge about this specific genre.
“Do I have enough knowledge to appreciate the work. Do I have enough comprehension to appreciate and the need to know what the cartoon serves? For us who have studied (journalism), we understand what it means. This time I understand what the writer is referring to. I am looking at the cartoonist as a writer expressing his views,” stated Kauapirura. She explained that Shaningwa was betrayed by her own people hence she depicted as naked akin to someone deserted.
“That’s betrayal, hence asking where is everyone?” Kauapirura said.
International University of Management Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Kingo Mchombu told New Era that cartoon work should be appreciated but is not meant to humiliate. “It (cartoon) should be within our norms and cultural framework. I strongly believe the idea was not to practice democracy but essentially to humiliate. The newspaper is read by children, grown-ups and all ages, therefore it is inappropriate,” said Mchombu. He added that copying from particular cultural framework and bringing them here is not the way to go. Mchombu said the cartoonist could express the same views in a much more constructive manner than drawing pictures of leaders who are naked.
Similarly, Namibian Institute of Democracy (NID) Executive Director Naita Hishoono stated there is another way and the cartoonist could have portrayed Swapo running away from Shaningwa.
“Alone is not necessarily naked. You know cartoonist learn many different ways to portray (issues). The cartoonist always had a balance approach but with this one he needs to go back to the drawing board and just portray her being alone in a different manner. There is no need to put the naked minister there,” she stated. She added that although there is freedom of speech there is a responsibility to also look at underlining issues in Namibia and one is violence against women.
“We have issues with GBV and cartoon should consider and reflect that sensitivity,” he said.
Freelancer and media trainer Willie Olivier told New Era that people in Namibia generally do not fully appreciate that a cartoon is not necessarily representative of hard news stories. Olivier stated that in other words a cartoonist has the freedom and the freedom is universally recognized. “The cartoonist has the freedom to depict particular scenes as they see them. Cartoonists don’t depict things as we see it in hard news,” stated Olivier.
He added that there is a misinterpretation of cartoon when it comes to sensitive issues. “I don’t think Dudley had done it with the intention of denigrating women. It depicts a high ranking political-the secretary general of the party and like I said if you had to put it in words, she was strip naked and that’s all the cartoon in my mind thought,” added Olivier.