Those who frequent the first and second floors of Miller are used to the decorations that adorn the otherwise strictly academic walls. This year, the 2016 Oak Fellow, Khalid Albaih, has his political cartoons (often dubbed “khartoons” in reference to where he lives, Khartoum, Sudan) displayed throughout the library. The installation called “Resistance and Hope” was officially unveiled on November 3. Albaih works independently on social media, publishing his cartoons on outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The cartoons depict international social justice and political issues and work mostly with images rather than words for universal understanding and accessibility. Quoted in GlobalPost in May 2016, Albaih said, “With these cartoons I’m trying to do the best that I can to create change so my kids can have a home, because I’ve always not been home.” Playing off of his strong social media interest and presence, the wide audience Miller Library attracts made it the perfect location for the installation. “This space is perfect. It’s seen every day by all the students. You don’t understand what that means to me,” Albaih said during his opening remarks. Student speakers Sarah Peck ’17, Maeve Dolan ’17, and Liz Bryan ’17 spoke of their fondness of Albaih and the honor of working in such proximity to him. Albaih himself is quite soft-spoken and personal, speaking with clear passion and intensity. He spoke easily with students and professors, accepting congratulations and compliments with modest thanks. He was intrigued with student analysis and varied the perspectives inspired by his work.
In addition to the professional cartoons mounted on the walls, student art was displayed at the front of the library, depicting what they learned in the Albaih’s Oak class. The students learned what political cartoons are, how to create them, and how to make them as engaging and effective as possible. Additionally, they chose cartoons to display and accompany with a short blurb analyzing the images and adding a personal touch to the display. The Echo spoke with Cara Goldfarb ’17 and Catherine Carey ’17 about the cartoon they chose, located on the first floor. It depicts Donald Trump holding his arm high in salute, and a black man sprawled on the ground with his hands up. The caption at the top reads “2016 American Hand Gestures”.
“I guess we wanted to discuss the two very different narratives that appear in this cartoon, one that shows the marginalization of black Americans who face extreme police brutality on a day to day basis, and the other, the dictator-like figure who’s trying to take over America, Donald Trump,” said Goldfarb. The library buzzed with students and professors milling around and taking in the installation. Goldfarb and Carey stood at the table next to the cartoon, gesturing to their blurb they wrote together and the mounted image. They chatted easily and added to each other’s comments, displaying a real passion for the work they did in the class.
“I think it summarizes a lot of the major media themes of the year,” said Carey, referencing reports of police brutality towards African Americans and the mounting controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The students spoke freely about their image.
“[Like] Trump’s white privilege…” said Goldfarb.
“Asshole privilege,” corrected Carey.
“The narrative is harming Americans who are already fighting for racial justice,” Goldfarb said.
“Trump is very much polarizing the country,” Carey added, and they both nodded.
“It was really cool to see the ones that people chose, to see where their political interests lie,” Goldfarb said in response to how the class chose cartoons to work with and how the class was organized. The class worked closely with Albaih to interpret and create these works for a vast audience, illuminating important global issues that need awareness.
“One thing I do know about his cartoons that is very cool is that he makes the work public, there’s no copyright to it, because he wants people to use his work, to spread it, to adjust it,” said Goldfarb, speaking to the universal accessibility of Albaih’s work. The installation is, indeed, easily accessible in Miller, and does a remarkable job drawing attention to global social concerns that require immediate awareness and action.