blessed month of Ramadan came to an end with those of us fasting feeling both
relief and a nostalgia that a month of regulating our timings, our eating
habits, and our entire life pattern has passed by so rapidly. It also brought
forth a feeling of sadness to see the degree's of poverty and the jobless
and unemployed in the society. It made us pause and think of all the blessings
bestowed on many of us, made us look out for those who struggle through difficult
times and the role we can play in alleviating perhaps just a little of that
unhappiness and troubled times being faced.
Today's woman achiever is a lady whom I had heard about, read about and enjoyed seeing her "Gogi" cartoons. She is Nigar Nazar, the first woman cartoonist in Pakistan. Gogi who became a symbol of a modern working woman, a woman who is confident, caring and helpful. Gogi was conceptualized in the early seventies and today she is more than thirty years old. Nigar who graduated in fine arts from the Punjab University and went on to get a Fulbright scholarship at the Art Department of the University of Oregon. She has attended several courses from the Australia National University Canberra. Nigar has been the proud recipient of several awards by the Pakistan Government as well as internationally acclaimed by countries like the UK, the USA, UNICEF, UNESCO, Australia and many others. Nigar Nazar brought recognition, fame and goodwill through her Gogi cartoons to Pakistan. Today, we miss seeing Gogi who has been used as an environmentalist, as a Nurse, as a torch bearer for female literacy, rights of children, voice against sexual harassment and many such issues related to the society and country.
Women like Nigar can quietly and forcefully help to bring about a change in the thinking and mindset of people in society. Gogi can play an important part in educating the rural woman of her rights, in educating her about hygiene, family planning, looking after babies and children and many other related issues. We believe that when talented women like Nigar are given the respect and attention they deserve from the government and related organizations, is it only then that societies and countries develop to their full potential. It is only then that the "enlightened moderation" theory we profess to uphold will and can actually be translated into a workable reality.
We hope that seeing Gogi's lithe and always smilling form will not only bring pleasant memories of yesteryears, but also a hope that like Gogi a woman of this country can successfully handle many facets of her personality in a positive manner.
|Cleaner greener progressive Pakistan, with social justice and tolerance, says Nigar Nazar|
FP: Tell us how and why gogi came
into existence? Is gogi a symbol of a modern working woman?
NN: Gogi is the symbol of womanhood in Pakistan. She is the Pakistani woman's voice. Gogi is modern and misunderstood at the first glance.
When I started off planning a comic strip, it had to have a central character and it had to be a woman that's how Gogi came about. She had to be progressive and forward looking-hence the modern look.
When gogi just appeared in Karachi in a publication of the Arts Council in
the early 70's how did people especially women react to this Polka dot creation
NN: Well there was no reaction as such but with time she became an endearing character she had an appeal which turned to fondness once the readers got to know her.
FP: Tell us, gogi was in the 80's and early 90's very visible in many newspapers, then suddenly why was she not so visible for a period of time? No other Pakistani cartoonist could come up with a gogi replacement.
NN: She was not visible for a certain period because we went overseas on diplomatic postings. We don't have a trend of social cartoons. You will find political and editorial cartoons and no social comics and therefore an absence of characters.
FP: The generation of children today are so much into outer-space and gun-totting cartoons characters. Good, clean and morally sound characters need to be projected as parenting children has become a tough job. How can parents try and change the reading or viewing habits of children today?
NN: Parents need to read stories to children from an early age, then get them to read fun books; hook them on to well illustrated books.
That is what I am trying to do. Prepare fun books, full of cartoons.
recent book on environment called "Koorey Ka Jin" has a board game
to it with 33 messages on the Do's and Don'ts of environment. It is an awareness
raising book and can be ordered from my website. www.gogicomics.com
The next book in the pipeline is the Gogi's Baby Record book and 4 books related to Disaster management in view of the recent earthquake of October 8, 2005. This was done with the guideline of the Japanese Education team on Disaster management.
I would be uploading my website with peep previews and visuals of these books.
FP: Your cartoons have appeared in newspapers and television around the world, what countries used gogi?
NN: Gogi comics have appeared in the Turkish Press (Daily News and Sabah Gazetesi) Libyan Press (Jamabiriya mail) in Central Asia (Bishhek Suranai) and in Australia's Art Magazine (MUSE) in editorial cartoons also along with my interviews in many British newspapers. (Telepgraph and Argus Yorkshire Post) Romanian International Women's Club published a completed calendar with Gogi comics.
FP: You have recently published a book "Job search and interview guide," published by the University of Oregon Career Center. What is the book about?
NN: While on my Fulbright scholarship at the University of Oregon (USA) I came across an advertisement for cartoon illustrations for a manual that the University was developing.
sent in some samples of my work along with an application in a university
where artists, professional designers and Art department was thriving I was
overjoyed to be selected. The manual was about writing a resume and cover
letter the target group was the fresh graduates. I drew characters from my
art class along with Gogi in the American setting.
The manual was lapped up by several students and another edition was published. It was also sent to other universities and to Portland the bigger city next door to Eugene.
When I returned from the University of Oregon after completing my professional upgrading in Art and Cartooning, I was sent another contract from the University to illustrate the other manual as well. This was "Job Search and Interview" I sent all my illustrations through the net while sitting in Islamabad; I feel proud as a Pakistani to be chosen once again to illustrate the manual which was to be used by several University graduates for many years to come and that Gogi should be the one showing the way to American students how to write a resume, cover letter; how to search for a job and give an interview successfully. I got a really nice letter of appreciation from the editors of these manuals in USA. A piece was published in 'Dawn' about the manuals and how a Pakistani cartoonist was much appreciated for enlivening the manuals with Gogi cartoons.
On my request a letter of permission was issued to me for adopting these manuals for Pakistani graduates and youth. I am waiting to get a publisher to take this project so that our youth may also avail these manuals for a brighter future.
FP: You are also a crusader in preserving the environment, and have written two books for children, and gogi has been used on buses to address the environmental issues in the form of illustrations?
NN: Environment features strongly in my list of passions. When I started off doing the Gogi Bus Project; wrapping buses with colourful Gogi cartoons each carrying a message; I was very happy when one of the sponsors asked for a cartoon message on the subject of Environment.
image came about with Gogi carrying a sapling across the whole side of the
bus "I planted a tree, did you?" At the back of the bus is the image
of the sapling which has grown and blossomed into a beautiful tree laden with
fruit. There is flora and fauna and all kinds of butterflies, birds and four
legged animals i.e. rabbits and kittens etc. Gogi is shown hugging the tree.
A different image on the same subject adorned the other side of the bus. 9 buses of various subjects were done for Rawalpindi 3 for Lahore. Last year I wrote a fun book on environment for children along with a board game.
This year I am looking forward to designing signs on Environment and Wildlife protection for Capital Development Authority. These will be erected on the 16 km road going through the Marghazar Zoo, the Margalla Hills up to the NWFP border.
FP: You have been the recipient of many awards from UNICEF, UNDP, International charity group etc. Do you devote a considerable time for charitable works?
I try to do at least three acts of charity annually. These acts are creative most of the time i.e. donating greeting card designed for fund raising. These are for charitable organizations. Up to now 13 such cards have been published. I have donated cartoon calendar designs to two charitable organizations. I once had the opportunity to donate action cards for children who need speech therapy. One speech therapist approached me for drawing cards with Gogi in different actions such as reading, running, playing, sweeping etc. These had to be shown to children for speech therapy. This was a very interesting project for me. Other speech therapists followed with the same request and I had no problem in giving them copies of these cards- it was for a good cause.
When in Africa, I devised a meaningful charity project having seen the pathetic condition of a school in our locality I rounded up a few of my friends to improve the school that ran 4 shifts for the children. It had no proper bathrooms, the floors had pits and the roofs leaked in the rain season. We hosted lunches, cake sales and I entertained with live cartoons. We managed to raise enough funds to initiate the renovation.
joy knew no bounds when Graca Machel (now Mrs. Nelson Mandela) at that time
Minister for Education came to the launching and announced to the multitude
of students (from all 4 shifts) that this renovation project was the result
of efforts made by a Pakistani woman (it was actually team work). She showed
the children where Pakistan was located on a world map.
Believe you me I felt 10 ft tall. Proud to be a Pakistani today that the school is beyond recognition from the school which I was moved to see initially.
recent humane ( I wouldn't call it charitable) work that my team of volunteers
did was for the earthquake victims. All Pakistanis mobilized to help and care
about our brethren.
We, at the Gogi studios after sending a truck of essential food stuff, tents and utensils decided to stage a puppet show for the young victims. I met up with a few trauma consellors and wove the elements of trauma conselling into our script. I wrote a song encouraging these kids to move ahead with courage and bravery. We engaged musicians and a singer to do the rest of the job. We performed at the crisis centre at The Children's Hospital at PIMS Islamabad.
It was so moving when the earthquake affectees clapped and smiled while in their wheel chairs and stretchers. Their parents kissed the hands of my puppeteer volunteers.
PTV did a special report on our puppet show and Reuters did a story that remained on their website for sometime.
I hope to inspire youngsters to do volunteer work.
FP: What has been your most challenging project till now?
Most challenging project:
I was approached recently to prepare 4 books for children on disaster management and earthquake preparedness.
They had to b profusely illustrated with cartoons, all colourful and the text had to be developed as well. It sounded like an interesting project wherein I was told by the Japanese Education Department expert on disasters) that first I would have to learn all about it and then prepare the books. I was all set to learn from the people who had scientific material, and data on this subject. But the challenge of it came when I was told that 3 weeks was my deadline!
I stopped all other projects work in the studio and got my animators to render the drawings that I tried churning out at full speed. Thankfully the last visual (title page) was done on the morning of leaving for Karachi for a PTV morning show guest appearance of Meena Bazaar!
FP: And your most exciting illustration or project since the thirty years of gogi's inception?
NN: The Gogi Bus Project was exciting .There was so much visibility and it was fun to come across Gogi with a message all of a sudden while driving or walking along .
FP: You have been the wife of a diplomat and have traveled extensively, tell us the country which has perhaps influenced you in creating new concepts into gogi's character?
NN: Actually it was doing my Fulbright program stay at The US University that I learnt more about the cartoon concepts .I was also asked to teach (gave a 10 day workshop) and give a lecture or two in the Art Dept.Attending the annual Comic -Con in San Deigo was another eye opener..the cartoon industry in the US and other advanced countries is rich and thriving and one can learn a lot from them .In Pakistan our Media people have to encourage the cartoonists if we want to get anywhere .
FP: Tell us your dream for Pakistan? - How would you like to it?
NN: A Cleaner Greener Progressive Pakistan,with social justice and tolerance .
FP: We would want a lady as talented as you to remain in the mainstream and continue to give us gogi and a message - moral and ethical values and beliefs, values embodying integrity and honesty for the children of today, for the leaders of tomorrow.
NN: Pray I get a chance to put Gogi back in the papers.