French cartoonist, peace advocate Plantu brings his art to PH
His teachers told him he was no good in school—especially in math—and he believed them. For even as a young boy in Paris, France, Plantu (pen name, Jean Plantureux in real life) knew all he wanted to do was draw.
Nevertheless, his parents obliged him to study Medicine, and he obeyed so as not to disappoint them. The dutiful son enrolled in university, and within two years failed his course and was kicked out.
From that point on—having done what he was told—he decided to pursue his true passion. And since that fateful day in med school, Plantu has turned into one of the most recognized editorial cartoonists in the world, with a career that spans over 40 years. More importantly, not only has he helped extol cartoons as an art form, but his powerful pieces has made such an impact in the world that he even founded an advocacy, Cartooning for Peace, with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2006.
Today, the organization, which has gathered 130 artists from around the world, draws cartoons that aim to protect freedom of expression and build bridges among different races and religions.
On May 3 to 5, Plantu personally saw to a “Cartooning for Peace in Manila” event together with four other European cartoonists namely Bob Katzenelson of Denmark, Thomas Plassmann and Miriam Wurster of Germany, and Philippe Baumann of Switzerland.
The successful three-day program—funded and organized jointly by the European Union National Institutes for Culture, Alliance Française de Manille (AFM), Goethe-Institut Philippinen, and supported by the European Union and the Embassies of Denmark, France and Switzerland in the Philippines—was comprised of a series of conferences, master classes, interviews, and cartooning workshops in universities around Metro Manila.
The guest cartoonists also collaborated and interacted with their local counterparts including The Manila Times’ editorial cartoonist Steven Pabalinas, who also attended Cartooning for Peace in Manila.
On May 4, AFM hosted a dinner reception for the event’s participants and stakeholders at its Makati headquarters. There, The Manila Times interviewed Plantu himself who talked about the beginnings of his organization.
According to its founder, Cartooning for Peace was a by-product of a symposium called “Unlearning Intolerance” in 2006, which was held in New York. With the help of Anan, Plantu was able to gather 12 international cartoonists to discuss the onslaught of terrorism plots on newspaper Jyllands-Posten based in Copenhagen, Denmark that published cartoons on the Prophet Mohammed the previous year.
“I often visited Copenhagen to see my friend [who works at the newspaper]and I understood 10 years ago that it was the beginning of threats on freedom of speech,” Plantu recalled.
“Cartooning for Peace was actually the beginning of a conversation between Muslim cartoonists, Jewish cartoonists, Christians cartoonists [and even]agnostic cartoonists. Together, we imagined what the future held for freedom of speech.
“[We in our organization] never mean to offend [any group]that is why our doors are open to all. We respect the beliefs of the Christians, Muslims and Jews. [Through this] we believe we can build bridges that will connect all opinions and news around the world,” he added.
Today, Cartooning for Peace reaches out to younger generations around the world by presenting ideas in educational institutions. Thus, here in the Philippines, they visited students at the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, and the University of Santo Tomas for their talks.
Asked what he thinks of the work of Filipino cartoonists, Plantu replied, “There are a lot of young Filipino cartoonists, and it was so beautiful for me [to see that], because these young men and women cartoonists are the future. They will continue the bridges that we build.”
Sharing his own journey toward editorial cartooning, Plantu told The Manila Times that he published his first piece in 1972 for French newspaper Le Monde, just a year after he failed Medicine and dropped out from university. His subject was the Vietnam War.
“On my first day, I received 100 francs for my drawing. I was so surprised [because]I was drawing cartoons not to earn money,” he recalled. “My parents [eventually]became so proud of me.”
Plantu further expressed his intention to know more about the current events in Philippines, especially the situation in Mindanao where conflict continues to exist.
“I am here to learn a lot,” he declared. “To learn what is allowed or what is not allowed in the country. To know what is possible to draw among the Christians and the Muslims in the Philippines to begin a proposition of peace in the south.”
For more information on Plantu’s advocacy, log on to www.cartooningforpeace.org.