I was described to be one of the pioneers of Arab women cartoonists working in Arab journalism and press. Cartoon art plays an important role in raising awareness in our society. It is a very effective and quick tool for delivering messages to audiences, a very powerful form of expression. It stirs the consciences and touches the emotions.
Her depictions of modern day issues such as Islamophobia, environmental issues and violence towards women and children have been published in newspapers and magazines in the Arab realm and have also spread across various art centered online platforms. But who is the face behind these drawings? With a degree from the Faculty of Fine Arts Graphic Section Rasha Mahdi already knew her path was paved to work in the field of graphics and design. But what she didn’t anticipate was the impact her work would be making in Egyptian society.
B: Firstly I would like to thank you for joining me in this interview Rasha. As one looks at your drawings and illustrations it is clear to see that they center on societal struggles and political problems that occur in Egypt.
Has it been always an idea of yours to focus on human right issues and the empowerment of women in your illustrations?
R: I use my illustrations to present my opinions on political current events, social problems, humanitarian issues, cartoon advertising campaigns plus women empowerment.
B: Growing up in Egypt where did the drive to become a graphic designer stem from? Had it been always a dream of yours?
R: Ever since I was young I loved drawing and colors. My mother played an important role in supporting me. I graduated from the faculty of Fine arts graphic animation and book art and I studied designing cartoon characters and after my graduation. I loved entering the field of editorial cartoons which appears in the press. I was described to be one of the pioneers of Arab women cartoonists working in Arab journalism and press.
B: Could you perhaps guide us through the process of your work and where you draw your inspiration from?
R: Current events, people talks, personal experiences, emotional scenes, even animals, birds, and plants can be sources of inspiration. I also believe that inspirational angels throw wonderful ideas to your mind and heart. Working hard and thinking deeply can also give birth to wonderful ideas. The most successful cartoons are then selected to be used in competitions and win prizes.
B: Do you believe your drawings are affecting Egyptian society?
R: Cartoon art plays an important role in raising the awareness of society. It is a very effective and quick tool for delivering messages to audiences, a very powerful form of expression. It stirs the consciences and touches the emotions. A small piece of cartoon can be more effective compared to a long written article, so being an editorial cartoonist gives you the chance to share your opinions, your point of view and your perspectives to change the awareness of audiences in political situations, social problems, and humanitarian issues.
B: How do you perceive the public’s reaction from your drawings?
R: Launching my cartoons and illustrations at news websites, cartooning platforms or social media platforms shows the reaction of audiences towards my ideas. Everyone sees the illustrations from their point of view and either leaves positive or negative comments. Sometimes the themes and topics of women rights find more support from women than men.
B: Do you believe readers/viewers react differently to a controversial article as opposed to a controversial image?
R: I believe every one reacts differently due to his or her culture, political background, beliefs and ethics.
B: Has there ever been any backlash because of the ugly, yet truthful reality you paint, or in this case draw?
R: A lot of the illustrations published by editorial cartoonists show the real and sad face of the truth about current events. People react emotionally towards these ideas, but I think this the great role of cartooning art; to use a shocking technique to touch and make aware of society.
B: On the other hand, what positives and perhaps changes have you experienced through your graphic creations in your life (and perhaps the lives of others)?
R: Most of my cartoons have a humanitarian sense which can touch the hearts and minds of audiences. Especially human, children and women’s rights cartoons. Using these cartoons as advertising and awareness campaigns make them a powerful tool to find support from society.