Cartoons implement social commentary, voicing an opinion, and not just to amuse people. They take on various roles from depicting political humour, social issues and assorted topics. The first artist to be called a 'cartoonist' was John Leech, when his drawing, captioned 'Cartoon No. 1: Substance and Shadow' was published in Punch magazine on July 15, 1843.
Kesava Shankar Pillai (1902 – 1989), better known as Shankar, is considered the father of political cartooning in India. Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman (1921 – 2015) ie RK Laxman was an illustrator and humorist, best known for his cartoon The Common Man, checked on activities of politicians in his daily cartoon strip, You Said It in The Times of India, in 1951.
Everyone knows Mario Miranda (1926 – 2011) from Loutolim, Goa, who lived between Goa and Bombay (now Mumbai). His work depicted street scenes, religious processions, market and bar scenarios etc, and was published in the Illustrated Weekly, Midday and Economic Times.
Alex Fernandes, aka Alexyz, from Siolim, considered Mario as his mentor, and admits that his cartoons have similitude to Mario’s style.
Catching up with the multifaceted Dr Smitha Bhandare Kamat – professor of Commerce at SS Dempo College of Commerce & Economics, Bambolim, and researcher, cartoonist and writer – was awesome.
ART & MORE
As a child, Dr Smitha doodled in her note books, and it became an instrument for unwinding, eventually developing into an introspective and constructive expression of compassion and feelings. She speaks about women not being respected as they were in the days gone by, and due to the deeply entrenched patriarchal society, crimes of domestic violence and rape have gone unpunished, whereas journalists, cartoonists and artists have been penalized for depicting religious and political scenarios.
After obtaining an MCom, MBA (NET & SET) MA, PhD (2013-14) from Goa University, she joined the teaching profession in 1999.
“When I started publishing cartoons in 2009, there was no competition, neither do I see it now. Cartooning is a double-edged sword. I use it as a tool to heal and participate because I want to contribute and not compete. I normally like to take up socio-political issues, and refrain from approaching religious themes. Cartooning challenges my creativity and intellect into creating works, by converting my ideas graphically. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the art of laughing at ourselves.” Her writing and drawings are restrained and subtle. She also writes poetry!
HER WORK & AWARDS
Appreciative of women cartoonists Liza Donnelly, Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek, she affirms she’s an introvert, and not much into socializing. “But, there are occasions where I show the extrovert side when needed,” says she.
Among the publications she has contributed to are O Heraldo (Smile with Smitha), Goa Today (Last Laff), Evescape (Evestoons), Pilar’s Call magazine (Mission Toons), Indian periodicals from Turkey, France, Egypt.
In 2017, her work was used as a greeting card by the Department of Women’s Studies. She has published a book With a Pinch of Salt, participated in a women’s rights exhibition (‘The Sharp End of the Pencil’), an international cartoon and caricatures festival (‘Festival Press et da la Caricature de Estague du Dessin,’ in Paris in 2018), and judged works for national and international cartoonists in 2019/’20.
Among awards and accolades that she has received are the Best Teacher’s Award (Government of Goa); featured on Turkey TV Başkent Postası; received the Lokmat Award; bestowed the State Award by the Government of Goa in the field of Education; ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ in 2019; invited to the international cartoon event, organised by Toons Magazine in Norway; consolation prize at the Mario Miranda Cartoon contest (2020), and was featured by Le Crayon, France. She has authored five books and plans to add on.
On her plans for the future, she says, “In the next few years, I want to start an academy to get youngsters to explore their creativity and research on the subject.”