Arts

The Chronicle Herald's Bruce MacKinnon artistic take on COVID-19. Cartoon: Bruce MacKinnon/#COVICATURE.

Dr. Omid Milani has curated a thoughtful gallery of satirical cartoons about the novel coronavirus and its impact on everyday life

The University of Ottawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre has been soliciting political cartoons about the impact and discourse sparked by COVID-19, in a campaign aptly named #COVICATURE.

First launched in April 2020, #COVICATURE uses satirical and comic cartoons to address “subject-matter impacted by the COVID-19 virus and broadly relating to human rights, justice, peace and well-being.” The campaign has been a great success, with submissions pouring in from all over the world.

Dr. Omid Milani, a U of O law graduate and part-time professor, launched #COVICATURE in the aftermath of his law dissertation, in which he explored global legal scholarship using a blend of political cartoons and standard written language. This unique methodology prepared him to curate #COVICATURE’s digital gallery, which brings together complementary aspects of contemporary law, human rights advocacy, and political cartoons. You can read more on Milani’s cartoon-oriented research methodology here.

Milani attributes the exhibit’s success to cartoonists’ “unique ability to explore a complex situation through images.”

“[Cartoonists] understand the need for exploring difficult issues through a different medium; they respond to world conflict with a curiosity that makes them uniquely qualified to contribute to the conversation,” said Milani. 

Satire plays a crucial role in the collection, functioning as both a literary force and as a useful tool for cartoonists looking to comment on the efficacy of their different governments’ actions. 

“Satire affords artists a certain freedom to hold their governments accountable; their cartoons can be funny, but also expose the transparency of their society (or lack thereof),” explains Milani. Despite being the “least aggressive” mode of communication available to political journalists, they’re still able to pack a powerful punch.

“Government is a manifestation of the status quo, and cartoonists are there to challenge that.”  

#COVICATURE certainly follows this reasoning, offering images that critique governmental responses to COVID-19. Mask imagery abounds; #COVICATURE is a haunting time capsule of the new normal enforced by the coronavirus.

-editor’s note 5:30 p.m. (15/09/2020): This article was updated as Dr.Milani was mistitled in a previous version of the article.