When deliberating on vital societal issues, there is the tendency to witness (and rightfully so!) how such discussions mostly occur within formal avenues.
This legitimate practice blinds us to some critical unofficial locations, as in popular media genres, that equally and critically engage with grave collective matters.
In this piece, we demonstrate how some political cartoons in Ghana (by Anadan and The Black Narrator) have crucially weighed in on the serious issue of corruption in some sectors in the country. In doing so, these artists, in their own unique ways, proffer solutions to this menace.
When one examines The Black Narrator’s cartoon titled “The Fight against Corruption” the artist portrays certain professionals (for example a policeman, a judge, a clergyman, and an international businessman) who are firmly entrenched in what seems to be a centuries-old ‘baobab corruption tree.’
Fight against corruption
A feature about those seated on this tree is obviously their intimate and corrupt partnership with financial wealth. We also see a crowd determined to get rid of these professionals’ seemingly ‘permanent residence.’ Despite the visible resolve of people to root out the practice and those associated with it, we witness the interest of some of these corrupt personalities in “negotiating” with the disgruntled crowd by “showering” them with money. The cartoon suggests several things. One is the pervasive nature of corruption in some core sectors of society.
We witness the serious nature of the spread of this cankerous practice in how those on the tree seem comfortable in their belief that the masses cannot dispose of their corrupt practices.
The second is that the very act of the masses to forcibly rid corruption through their own efforts points to their conviction that the practice cannot be eradicated by appealing to the seared the conscience of those elected leaders and public officials who are involved in these very acts unless anti-corruption behaviours are ingrained in them from childhood through education.
If “The Fight against Corruption” cartoon is a broad call for grassroots mobilisation to physically fight to end financial corruption in the public service, then the cartoon “What a Shock!” categorically highlights the judiciary as an unambiguously crooked institution where we sorely need unorthodox tactics to rid this sector of corrupt judges.
What a shock!
The cartoon showcases a man video recording three visibly shocked judges, firmly shackled by, and engrossed in “corruption.” On the face of it, the cartoon merely represents Anas’ undercover investigation that provided solid visual proof of massive corruption in Ghana’s judiciary. However, the cartoon, in terms of such aspects as a judge’s revealed buttocks, can be read as a symbolic stripping of their social power and moral authority as arbiters of impartial justice.
Furthermore, in depicting the actual undercover methods that Anas used (including facial disguise and secret audio-video recorder) to expose the depth of corruption in the judiciary, the cartoon suggests that eradicating this menace requires resolute, ordinary individuals who are bold enough to give voice to their values in this endeavour. In both cartoons, one discerns The Black Narrator’s conviction that ordinary citizens have the capacity to eliminate and/or minimise corruption. This perspective sharply challenges the mere rhetoric of some Ghanaian politicians that they possess the “political will to fight corruption.” Here, the cartoonist’s visual project highlights ordinary people’s concrete acts of fighting corruption.
The artist Anadan tackles a type of corrupt practice that exists in some academic institutions associated with sex for academic grades.
Sex for grades
In the cartoon, a female student, in a miniskirt and revealing sleeveless top-crop attire negotiates for a good grade in exchange for sex through the seemingly unsolicited blanket sexual proposal for the lecturer to do whatever he wants to her. The student’s audacity to be within the professor’s working space and his fixated gaze on the woman’s chest (through the artist’s arrow in that direction) also suggests the professor seems prepared to agree to the sexual terms of “grade fixing.”
However, both desist, trepidatiously, with the realisation that their potential misdeed might be exposed. The genius of this cartoon’s focus is that it “solves” the issue of this rumoured prevalence of the practice of sex for academic grades at some universities. Nevertheless, in real life, despite the strong perception of the existence of the practice, our informal conversations with some colleagues at some universities in the country made us aware that the authorities have not instituted measures to gain students’ confidence in reporting cases of sexual harassment in exchange for good grades.
As a result, there has been little concrete evidence to spark serious discussions leading to steps to help stem this rumoured practice through anti-corruption education. Thus the cartoon seeks to spotlight the issue of sex-for-grades, perhaps to force a general debate on the matter and encourage transparency through anti-corruption education.
The three cartoons discussed in this article bring to the fore the urgent need to start educating students at all levels on anti-corruption behaviours and encourage them to live it to curb the corruption menace that is bedeviling the nation.
• The writers are lecturers of the Ashesi University