Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff is one of the prominent artists today who blends art with daily politics. His immediate artistic responses to the global political developments keep his followers fascinated. We talked to Mr. Latuff, who is closely following the political situation in Turkey, about his art, Turkey, Brazil, recent global developments and the possibility of a peaceful world.
Your cartoons are the perfect examples today to theorize on how aesthetics respond to politics. How would you describe your motivation to draw, is it primarily political or aesthetic?
There are cartoons and topics whose major motivation is aesthetic, but most of my production deal with politics. In fact, in my work, politics comes first, aesthetic is secondary.
Some of my cartoons are more graphically elaborated, others are more simple, but what matters is the message they deliver.
I know that you are very interested in what is going on in Turkey recently. You put your opinions on the new Turkey in your drawings, but if you’d need to put it in words, how would you explain your view of Turkey? What is the most gruesome incident in Turkey lately that touched you and made you respond with your art?
Hard to tell what’s more “gruesome,” but of course, something that touched me as an artist, the war against freedom of speech, jailing of journalists, lawyers, dissidents, and even cartoonists like Musa Kart. A country where satire and humor are unlawful cannot be considered a democracy. Erdoğan has been dragging Turkey into a dictatorship in broad daylight, before the eyes of the world.
Many people have difficulty in forming a sound opinion about the political situation in Brazil these days. What is really going on in Brazil?
Impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, a political move by the opposition, a coup rather than an anti-corruption campaign, opened the Pandora’s box. With Michel Temer now in charge, it’s exposed for everyone to see the bowels of the real kleptocracy that has been ruling Brazil since the year 1500.
Do you see similarities between the two countries, Turkey and Brazil?
Not exactly, different from Turkey, we are a young country. Turkey under Erdoğan’s rule has imperial aspirations, trying to revive the times of the Ottoman Empire. Brazil, my poor Brazil, is still a colony, in the past from Portugal and now from foreign economic interests, we have been ruled by an oligarchy, even now in the 21st century, that works to keep Brazil as such.
You are also aesthetically responding to the Middle East in general. What do you see in the Middle East today, hope or just crisis?
While in the hands of the superpowers and being the main exporter of oil in the whole world, I see the Middle East suffering from the same old colonialist, imperialist policies.
I guess your followers hope for the days when Carlos Latuff will draw a perfectly peaceful world. Would you still draw in such a world? Does an artist always need crisis, pain, and turmoil? How would a peaceful caricature be?
A perfect world has no political cartoonists because then we wouldn’t have topics to criticize. The main reason for a political cartoonist to exist are things like war, conflicts, social inequality. I don’t know what a “peaceful caricature” looks like since we never had real peace in the world and I doubt we will ever have.
You face criticisms, some of them are too harsh, you’ve been called even “anti-Semitic.” How do you draw the line there between your political stance and art?
Anti-Semitism is hatred, as Islamophobia or homophobia, it does exist and must be fought. However, the Israeli lobby has been used anti-Semitism as a weapon of choice in order to neutralize, criminalize criticism towards Israeli apartheid against Palestinians. No matter how many times the lobby will tag my cartoons as “anti-Semitic” I will continue supporting Palestinians with my cartoons.
I know you experienced arrests in the past. The Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart was in jail in the past months as well. While thinking about the jailed colleagues, do you censure yourself sometimes?
I try to be careful sometimes, but will never prevent myself from doing political cartoons, no matter how sensitive may be the topics.