Find out what inspires cartoonist Mohammed Al-Mahdi. Read more…
The name Mohammed Al-Mahdi will soon be synonymous with cartoon art in Bahrain. Only 18 years old, his achievements include designing and establishing a specialized personal cartoon website, drawing 10 advertisement cartoons for Berlitz, and organizing a personal cartoon exhibition in the University of Bahrain that contained 30 cartoons, under the name UOB Cartoon. Nader and Abdulla Al Muhraqqi better watch their backs; there is a new cartoonist in town!
Khaleejesque Team: When did you start drawing cartoons? And how did you get started in this field?
Mohammed Al-Mahdi: I remember that the first drawing I ever did is when I was four years old, in 1994. And I think this drawing was about Batman-the famous comic superhero. My older brother Wael was the main incentive to make me draw my first drawing ever, and I did so because of his encouragement.
KT: Do you think there is a lack of awareness about cartooning in Bahrain, or do you think it’s easy for people to establish themselves in this field?
MM: In my opinion, there is indeed a lack of awareness about cartooning in Bahrain. And it’s very hard to improve your drawing skills, and it’s very hard to publish your cartoons. There are many reasons that make drawing and establishing cartoons hard. For example, there are no professional cartoon teaching centers, or an expert cartoonist who can teach or train young artists how to draw cartoon. Publishing your cartoons in a local newspaper is hard too, because sometimes there is no cartoon corner in the whole newspaper! Unfortunately, people are not very interested in cartoon art, but they are getting interested because of its importance.
KT: Your subjects come from a wide range, from the political to the comedic. What inspires you to choose your subjects?
MM: Sometimes I choose my articles randomly, but the most thing that inspires me is something I actually see! For example, yesterday when I was roaming in City Center I saw a girl wearing a very big headscarf- I don’t know what I would call it in English but we call it in the Arabian Gulf (Bu nafkha). That scarf was very funny, so when I got back home I drew a funny cartoon about this unique scarf!
KT: Do you have a favourite subject?
MM: When I became an UOB student, my cartoons subjects changed. Because I found that the university atmosphere is more inspirational and I have drawn more than 50 cartoons about university till now. I find other subjects interesting too, so I draw about local political issues, global political issues, sport, youth, students, environment and economic issues.
KT: Have you been involved in any events so far?
MM: Unfortunately, there are no cartoons drawings events- at least not that I have heard of- in Bahrain. There are absolutely no events or exhibitions that are specialized for cartoon art. On the other hand, I already have prepared and organized two cartoon exhibitions. The first was on January 2008, and was of my cartoons and other Bahraini cartoonists, the article was about Muharram and the environment. The second cartoon exhibition was completely of my cartoons about students, it was on April 2009 in University of Bahrain.
KT: What are your plans, regarding cartooning, in the future?
MM: Now I am preparing to design and publish a booklet that contains all my 550 cartoons that I’ve done. I am working on renewing my personal website www.mohdcartoon.net http://www.mohdcartoon.net/, and I hope that I finish before August 2009. But my main goal is to be a successful and famous cartoonist, and I hope to improve cartoon art in Bahrain and in the Arab world.
KT: Any tips for aspiring young cartoonists in Bahrain and the Gulf?
MM: This question is very hard for me, because as you know I am only 18 and I need advice too! But for younger guys who are interested in cartoon art, I say: cartoon art is a meaningful and funny art, so keep going with it!
– Noora Abul for Khaleejesque. Images courtesy of Mohammed Al-Mahdi.