A young cartoonist Morshed Mishu recently secured his place in Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30’ list for 2019. As part of his campaign, The Global Happiness Challenge, he transformed moments of sorrow into moments of happiness. Mishu, in an interview with Nasir Uz Zaman, talks about his works
New Age Youth: Would you like to share your journey of becoming a cartoonist? Why did you choose cartoon as your medium of storytelling?
Morshed Mishu: In a way, my journey as a cartoonist started during my childhood with the help of my elder brother. He used to bring cartoon magazines at home and we both tried to copy those cartoons. As a mentor, he helped me to develop my drawing skills. From 2011, I started going to Unmad magazine’s office and started submitting my cartoons. In 2012, two of my cartoons were selected for Unmad’s cartoon festival — Save the Trees. This is how my journey as a cartoonist begun with Unmad. The language of cartoon is universal. That is why I have chosen cartoon as a medium to express my voice.
New Age Youth: Tell us more about your campaign, ‘The Global Happiness Challenge’?
Morshed Mishu: In 2018, photos of war victims went viral on social media. I could not accept the cruelty of war, I intentionally tried to avoid the photos but failed. I even had anxiety attack, could not sleep for several nights.
On February 25, 2018, the idea came to my mind. I was asking myself what do I really want to see instead of such cruelty. The inner-me replied, I want to see people smiling and happy. Then I collected some images and picked a photo where a father was holding his child in his lap, crying and running. I started drawing and transforming it into a happy moment.
Anik Khan, executive editor of Unmad magazine, helped me by giving the series a name with a couplet — I only know how to draw, how to cover the gloomy sorrow. In the next morning, I uploaded the illustration on social media and rest is history.
The illustrations of this series and the idea got love not only from the people of this country but also from across the globe. Today, there are 11 illustrations in the series.
New Age Youth: Recently you have started a new series titled ‘The Global GOD FORBID Challenge’.
Morshed Mishu: This new series has released on the anniversary of my previous series. One can recognise this series as an extended form of the previous one. Though the core massages of these two series are same but the presentations and ideas are different.
We often use the phrase ‘god forbid’ to hope something should not happen. In this new series, I am trying to present the things those I wish to not happen to anybody. In the previous series, I tried to show how beautiful the world could be without war by transforming real gruesome moment into a desired happy moment.
But, in this new series, I have intensified the gruesomeness of the war zones and replaced the face of the victims by world leaders. I have tried to show that if the leader is not a leader but a common person and facing the war situation along with his/her own family, what would s/he one do? How would s/he feel? And who would s/he blame?
The idea is that a commoner, not a leader, is the victim of war. Moreover, the leader who has the power to change the existing situation does nothing but to complicate the situation more.
New Age Youth: Most of your cartoons have stories behind them. Would you like to share a memorable story from one of your cartoons?
Morshed Mishu: Actually, each of the illustrations has a story behind it. It is not possible to draw a cartoon without a story which touches the inner-self. Recent incidents of Chawkbazar fire and Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury’s death touched me. I expressed my feelings with typography cartoons about the incidents. I do not know whether the story of the pregnant woman and her husband is true or not. But the story touched me.
New Age Youth: Some of your artworks present critic of socio-political realities of Bangladesh. You have illustrations on ‘No VAT on Education Movement’, ‘Road Safety Movement’, and gender issues. How do you define artist’s social responsibility?
Morshed Mishu: We have responsibilities towards the society, responsibilities that I could not avoid. When I worked for newspapers, I had to draw cartoons as part of news story. Many a times, I could not connect with the story.
Since I am not working for newspapers, I have the option to illustrate a cartoon from the story with which I feel connected. From my sense of social responsibilities, I had raised my voice when the-then finance minister tried to impose value-added tax on private university education. With same kind of sensibilities, I expressed my solidarity with the students who demanded road safety.
New Age Youth: Recently you have illustrated a satirical cartoon in which the DMP commissioner is saying, ‘There is no mugger in Dhaka’. What is the context of the cartoon?
Morshed Mishu: This cartoon is a satire of the existing system. On May 19, I was mugged at knife-point on Kuril flyover. They snatched my belongings. On May 22, the commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police commented that there is no mugger in the city.
I realised, there was certain truth in his comment. From my experience, in the current system, it is not easy to file a case against mugging. While I was in the police station, I was advised to file a general diary and I did so. According to the GD, I have lost my belongings. There is a difference between something being lost and forcibly taken away.
New Age Youth: What are your future plans as a cartoonist?
Morshed Mishu: I had plans to enter the military but after failing twice consecutively in the Inter Services Selection Board, I have learned that there is difference between fantasy and reality. Though I do not have any concrete future plan, still I know what I want to do. I want to express myself through my works and want to continue it.
Nasir Uz Zaman is a member of the New Age Youth team.
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