Iranian Cartoonist Overcomes Censorship with Savvy Style

From government  imposed to self censorship, CBLDF has reported on the significant number of artists and cartoonists who face a variety of challenges when it comes to having their works published and shown. One Iranian cartoonist, though, seems to have found a way to bypass the notorious censorship policies in his home country of Iran by developing a more covert, interpretive style.

Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour’s professional career as a cartoonist spans over two decades, and many of his works have appeared in most of the major mainstream Iranian magazines and newspapers. Classically trained in painting at the Azad University of Tehran, Hosseinpour’s caricature-type style is both strikingly beautiful and highly emotive, but it is also as first glance seemingly innocuous. Upon a closer look, though, his works take on a new light — his subjects turn out to be the same as many of the other artists in the Middle East. From comments on the policing of the Iranian people to tensions between the US and Iran to his own tribute cartoon to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Hosseinpour’s work varies from other artists in that he has developed a unique style of clever subtly and savvy.

“If you use subtlety and commonsense and apply your mind to what you draw, you can express mainly what you want to say, usually,” he commented in a recent interview. “In my work there are some very sensitive aspects, and we have to work around them with savvy… This is what the art of caricature, in fact, is about.”

Relying upon how his pieces are being interpreted by audiences has allowed Hosseinpour the unique position to continue publishing in Iran with little backlash. In a time where other Iranian cartoonists like Mana Neyestani are being imprisoned for their social commentaries, Hosseinpour has found his own way to navigate the waters of censorship, express himself freely, and ultimately get the message out.

Currently, the artist is showing his work at the Laboratoire Aerodynamique Eiffel in Paris, where a broader audience will become aware of the important work that this artist is doing both for his home country of Iran, but also for free expression in general. As he aptly stated, “The Iranian people and culture have many things to say and to express to the world, and if there is a positive outcome (to the talks) we would be able to export our culture and express ourselves more easily.” As his art with a clever application and approach continues to be published that exportation of expression becomes easier and more prevalent.

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!