John Curtis writes:

My position on the publication of the Muhammad cartoons was that they were not particularly good cartoons, without any real meaning, and gratuitously published to cause offence. I felt that they were irrelevant... until the violent reaction that led to deaths and death threats throughout the world made them very relevant indeed, and turned an instance of a few tasteless cartoons into a broader one about free expression - and the right everyone should have to draw and publish poor, tasteless, offensive cartoons.

I got this idea from a fun picture I'd seen of a chef about to chop off his portrait maker's hand with a butcher's knife, and adapted it to suit. rI rendered it in pencil for added effect, taking great care with photoshop to make the interaction between the pencil sketch and the photo of my hand believable. Some carefully crafted hand drawn typography and a black border to hold all the elements together and, finally, it was ready to be emailed to the paper...

The deputy editor's call came a minute later. While the editor appreciated the cartoon's originality and even its sentiment, did I really believe that given the sensitivity of the subject matter that it would be printed? "Keep the idea", he suggested, "just change the person to make him more secular". The irony - my cartoon on censorship had been censored! I was furious. How could the changes be made and still make a statement against press? There must be a way...

Eventually I mailed through an edited cartoon, replacing the fundamentalist with a sketch of a censoring newspaper editor. Now he was furious. But to his credit, he printed it!

John Curtis

John Curtis

As George W Bush angled for an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003, JOHN CURTIS was sufficiently moved to provide leading SA cartoonist ZAPIRO with cartoon ideas in protest. And…>

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© John Curtis | May 04, 2006 | Africartoons


WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY, 2006, marked a year in which the publication of cartoons controversially depicting the prophet Muhammad had become the biggest freedom of speech story ever, exploding into heated debate and violent reactions throughout the world.

This version of the cartoon was declined by the newspaper's editors on grounds that it was a far too sensitive a subject. (See the story in the column to left of the cartoon).