Lately I’ve been getting into cartoons and caricatures when previously I’ve never need quite interested in that particular art form. I approached cartoon strips and caricatures with the shallowness of a newspaper skimmer, so I never looked at them with the same seriousness as I do a painting or an illustration. Also, I felt that the only the cartoonist/caricature artist that had a distinct style and flavour in my limited knowledge of the field was Mostafa Hussein, with the exception of a handful of good draughtsmen coming up as second. Otherwise, every other work I came across was somewhat repetitive and easily forgotten.
Nowadays I’m terribly intrigued by cartoons & caricatures- the art form has proved itself an excellent medium in commenting on the political and social farce that our lives in Egypt have become; & who better to comment on a joke than a comedian? I’ve been following several names that I’ll be posting about later, but the ones that I find to be the most deliciously bizarre are the duo Essam Abdallah and Ali Abdel Mohsen. Their weekly cartoon strip titled “Unknown Cafe” has been featured in The Egypt Independent Newspaper for a stretch now, and it has been exceptionally left of the middle both in taste and style. The story lines, if you could call them that, are written by Ali, whereas the illustrations are by Essam.
I love the drawing itself- it’s not what we’re used to when it comes to local cartoons at all- none of the quick lines with splashes of coloured washes for backgrounds. Essam’s illustrations are painstakingly meticulous, with detailed contexts for every panel and a firm moulding of the characters the duo have created. The stories on the other hand lie at the exact point where randomness, bad taste & complete insanity interact. Some of them blindside you by how inappropriate they are. What I personally find most interesting is the departure of “Unknown Cafe” from the basic understanding of what a cartoon strip should be: an obvious commentary on what’s happening politically or socially. It breaks free from that expected limitation and serves only itself and its odd characters; a pretentiousness that makes it cool and unparalleled in our local cartoon/caricature scene. You can check the rest of their work here.