The work of the legendary South African cartoonist known as Zapiro, precedes even the most high-powered politicos that he’s caricatured over his three decades in lefty journalism. His vast oeuvre is a testament to the rich, complex and often paradoxical history of the mighty South African nation – reaching a global audience with a sharp brand of satire that transcends national divisions, and international borders.

Zapiro effectively kickstarted his life as a professional troublemaker during his time as a conscripted soldier in the early 1980s. Staunchly refusing to touch weapons of any kind, he was a leading member of the End Conscription Campaign, and soon became a target for military intelligence as an activist of the fledgling anti-apartheid movement.

After honing his natural-born skills under the comics masters Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman in New York, he threw himself headlong into the social and political maelstrom that was the South Africa of the late 80s and 90s, addressing the towering monstrosities of injustice, corruption and ignorance, which defined the country during those tumultuous years.

Now an intractable staple of South African heritage, Zapiro continues to court controversy – most notably with his excruciatingly brilliant depiction of President Jacob Zuma, during the rape scandal which (briefly) sullied Zuma’s public image in 2005.

Sticking steadfastly to the analog inks and pens of yesteryear, Zapiro still draws only in monochrome and steers well clear of computers and color.

Loved by the grand masses, and hated as much by the new ANC elite as by their former apartheid trailblazers, his latest controversy is around a cheeky Mohammed cartoon which was published in the Mail & Guardian newspaper in May 2010, after an eleventh-hour court bid by the Council of Muslim Theologians to bar its publication was rejected.

You want to meet this guy right? So did we! While in Cape Town, we had the distinct privilege of being invited to his studio, an extension of his lovely home in leafy Oranjezicht, to see him live in action – what a pleasure! – and find out what makes him tick.

This interview on Vimeo:

Pretty Cool Crew

Directors, interview: Jurriaan Esmeijer & Veerle Snijders, Camera and sound: Nick Chevallier, Editor: Jurriaan Esmeijer, Asst. editor: Jorrit Spoelstra.

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