Behind every success story is a long way of reaching the top and despite the obstacles proving yourself and others that you’re worth your dream. This story is not an exception. Doaa El-Adl started from a wish to become a cartoonist and now she is one of the 100 most influential women named by the BBC in 2016 and, what is more,  the first professional female cartoonist in Egypt.


Swimming against the tide


Doaa El-Adl early realized that wants to challenge authority by small drawings. Thereby she entered Alexandria University, Faculty of Fine Arts and was among a handful of women, who mostly didn’t look at the cartoon as their future career. Now she runs back over the years and says there were only a few who encouraged her motivation and passion of being a professional cartoonist.

“Those older than me were very encouraging, whilst those younger were denying the possibility of this being a long-term career. They felt that I’d try it out for a while and then quit like those before me. They assumed that I’d get married and stay home. At that time, the last female caricaturist had quit after three years. They didn’t expect me to commit longer than that, but I did, and when I broke those three years I felt relieved. Now I can proudly say that I have been 10 years in this business.”

This woman didn’t want to give up the dream and started working as a political cartoonist in Al Dostour Newspaper and later in Rose Al Youssef Magazine, where proved to be an extraordinary and ambitious young specialist. El-Adl also took part in various modern art exhibitions in  France, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, winning several awards.


Working in darkness

Working as a political cartoonist in such a liberal newspaper as Al Masry Al-yoom Doaa El-Adl faced absolutely different, almost the opposite opinions getting along well on pages of one magazine. She confesses that never been told what and how to draw but always followed her passion and concept. On the other hand, not all the topics are equally open for her. Lack of sources and fear to loose job make her balance on the edge.

“No one ever told me what to draw, or banned any of my work. However lately, lack of information is the most catastrophic issue we battle with. Usually when there is any prominent issue, we don’t get any information about it. It is like working in the darkness. There are a lot of topics that we’d like to draw about but can’t because we don’t have enough information.”

The influence the political cartoons have on the Egyptian audience, however, is high enough. As Doaa El-Adl sees it, most attention gain strips about the Egyptian revolution, the rule of Muslim Brotherhood, and the problems and frustrations caused by both those topics. Her recent cartoon on former President Mubarak’s trial soon became popular online. This fact clearly enough shows Egyptian’s interest in such kind of caricatures.

Discussing the censorship in Egypt she confesses that the cartoonist may be exposed on charges of insulting the president or blasphemy.  These terms, however, have a vast variety of meanings and can be almost cross-functional. El-Adl several times experienced it herself when due to her cartoons she was accused of blasphemy like it happened once with a caricature, criticising modern politicians in appropriating religion in their own interest. The picture showed Adam and Eva being expelled from Heaven and an angel telling that they could have stayed in case they had voted for the right candidate.

Adam and Eva

Creating for and about women

Except for political cartoon, El-Adl challenges society by pictures, criticising existing legal basis, which has male guardianship laws and gives women a secondary position. In February 2013 Al Masry Al-yoom published the caricature of El-Adl, where a man holds a pair of scissors between a woman’s legs and reaches to cut off the red flower. By this cartoon, she was making Egyptian headlines as a fighter against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and now is well-known for women rights defending orientation of her art.

Her credo is to support those, who are weaker than others and deserve a better destiny. Consequently, as her main goal, she reckons illustration of alternative women image, different from dominant in media. By this, she plans to draw attraction to the problem and help people find a solution.

“When I first joined this field, I started looking into the history of caricature to see how women were featured. At its lowest, Caricature featured women as the mother-in-law, the fat person, the evil or weak woman. At its peak, this image was transformed into a more powerful one. In my own caricature, a woman is an active participant, a dynamic entity, one that can mouth the comment. I empower women through my art, not just because I am a woman, I always tend to empower the party that is being weakened.”

In an interview, the cartoonist confesses that her FGM cartoons often lead to a controversial reaction of the society. This subject hasn’t ever been handled in media in such an open way before. The audience was divided into two parts: the first one became motivated and encouraged the background idea to stop the crime, while the others reacted negatively and disliked the idea.  Doaa El-Adl is positive about both issues and looks confidently in her future: “I believe that these strong reactions to the cartoon is a good thing, whether the reaction is acceptance or rejection. “


The story to be continued

Doaa El-Adl has just finished her book of caricatures with 50 cartoons featuring 50 women. The book has three sections: the first is dedicated to problems with women face from ordinary and simple ending up with complex ones. The second consists of cartoons illustrating laws discriminating women. The third contains a positive women image.  All in all, the book is about a different female perception, without a traditional focus on women as housewives.

“Our society adopts the idea of women sacrificing their lives for the sake of their kids, without having their own independent dreams. “

El-Adl means that sarcasm is a powerful voice of a contemporary society, which obviously affects the existing situation. Moreover, the inspiration source never runs out and the cartoonist still has a lot to tell the world.

Doaa El-Adl means that sarcasm is venting, it helps people accept their realities. But it also has a greater role. In the bombing of the cathedral church for example, she drew a Mawled-doll wearing black and crying. The main message conveyed in this drawing was that we are just as hurt and devastated as our nation partners are. “It was like patting them on the back,”  – adds the cartoonist. The responses and feedback she got on this piece were huge.

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