Laughter is Social Glue

Mita Roy Cartoon

“Humor Versus Color” by Mita Roy ~ This cartoon was created in the spirit of generativity similar to the Raagmala paintings of India, in which visual art was produced in response to Indian musical modes, or Ragas. The cartoons were inspired by the poem below, which was written in response to anthropologist Ritu Khanduri’s book “Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons, History, and the Modern World.”

– After Ritu Khanduri, With apologies

Laughter is social glue—

When it escapes

the blow is softened—

The Brits did not know

about Laughter Out of Place,

said They, Those brown

people, have no sense of fun,

only satire and malice—Why

can they not be happy

we’ve won?

 

Laughter is social glue—

It cements fear of those who

rule and fail to decipher dark

joke: what do you get when the

Common Man revolts and takes

back power? Emergency.

It is impossible for the white man

to leave peace in his wake.

The earth shakes. Aftershocks

for generations. There is no mithai

for women on Holi the gupt passes

from pocket to hand eyes become wide

years ago these images did not exist—

Only pictures of gods lived in the markets.

There were no vernacular cartoons

nothing was produced to inspire

letters from leaders cautioning

Your ridicule should never bite

 

Laughter is social glue—

Shankar liked to paint

exaggerated lips, so many

Superior women who lost

their way in darkness the men

who run the papers smile while

making their offers. They

do not appreciate biographical work

from women: give them illustrations

for recipes and children’s poems,

all that is of the home is free range

unless your name is Kamath: show

every day politics through the social

place of women. Mita Roy, too,

broke rules, destroyed boundaries—

employing skill in times of turmoil,

beginning young, so adept at her art

that those uninformed read her name

as a man’s. Be defiant. Share Manjula’s

beliefs and let ink stand on its own; do

not think curves dictate body-type affiliation,

do not accept the confines of a box

when they say Women do not have time

to do this kind of work do not

take 149 pages to call yourself artist

when you scribble so beautifully,

make the point stand out so clear:

 

This laughter is social glue—

It challenges established academic

views and makes everyone critic and

ethnographer. The fieldnotes drawn in

black ink may critique but Sacrilege is

to ridicule. Using personal interpretation

to record what is seen does not include

disrespect—a council that lets images

say more than words places value on

the politics of seeing.

"A Tale of Grit" by Mita Roy

“A Tale of Grit” by Mita Roy ~ This cartoon was also created in the spirit of generativity similar to the Raagmala paintings of India, in which visual art was produced in response to Indian musical modes, or Ragas. These cartoons were inspired by the poem above, which was written in response to anthropologist Ritu Khanduri’s book “Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons, History, and the Modern World.”

Fatima-Ayan Hirsi is an anthropology senior at the University of Texas at Arlington and the founder of Dark Moon Poetry & Arts, a platform of expression for North Texas women artists. Her poetry has been featured across Texas and can be read in Vagabonds, Life in 10 Minutes, the anthology Poem Your Heart Out: Volume 1, and Writer’s Digest. Her work is forthcoming in the anthologies Poems of the American Southwest, Volume 2: Persona Poems, published by Dos Gatos Press, and in the Dallas Poetry Community’s Best of the Metroplex. She can often be found on the sidewalks of Dallas creating spontaneous poems for passersby on her typewriter. See her work at flowerwordspoetry.com.

Mita Roy is a pioneering Indian woman political cartoonist. She was staff cartoonist at India’s leading newspapers, the Pioneer (Lucknow) and Amar Ujala (New Delhi). She is the creator of the popular pocket cartoon series “Bhaiyaji” and “Sahiba” and has several thousand political cartoons to her credit. Some of her other  cartoon columns are “Cartoonist’s Eyeview” and “The week that was” (The Pioneer), “Aaeena” (Outlook), “Dakhil-Kharij” (Amar Ujala),”Achook” (Kuber Times), “Aisa Bhi Hota Hain”, “Chalti Chakki”, “Saurabh ji” (Swatantra Bharat) and “Mohanaa” in the children’s magazine Sarang (Amar Ujala). She has also freelanced for several magazines namely Blitz, Dharmyug, Sunday Mail, 4th D Vichar Saransh, 4th D Women, Meri Sangini, Cruising Heights, Kaimoor Times. She has been felicitated with “Pride of the Nation Award” and “Matrishree Award.” She did her undergraduate degree in Anthropology. Her career spans three decades. Her work has been discussed in Ritu Gairola Khanduri’s Caricaturing culture in India: Cartoons, history and the modern world, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2016 (2014).

 

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