WORLDVIEWS/Illustrated map of the Mediterranean #1

I fatti della “Primavera Araba” hanno determinato nuovi scenari e ridisegnato gli equilibri mondiali. L’ondata di proteste che ha investito il mondo arabo – adesso in particolar modo l’Egitto –  ha infatti significato un processo di risveglio culturale senza precedenti.  Ciò ha permesso, dove la libertà di espressione è stata a lungo repressa, di individuare nuovi canali di comunicazione. Nessun Paese è rimasto a guardare, e ovunque si sono fatti sentire gli effetti di questa rinascita. FocusMéditerranée ha pensato di tracciare per voi una mappatura del Mediterraneo attraverso le parole di chi normalmente si esprime solo con le immagini.
La sfida è quella di offrire un punto di vista inconsueto e dimostrare che la conoscenza di quest’area passa anche attraverso i colori, i materiali, le tecniche usate da illustratori nati, cresciuti, emigrati, immigrati nei Paesi che la compongono, o che quel territorio lo osservano da fuori, da lontano. La prima storia è quella di Fouad Mezher.

Illustratore e animatore, Fouad Mezher è nato nel 1987 in Brasile. All’età di 6 anni si è trasferito con la famiglia in Libano. Ha iniziato la professione nel 2007, anche se la passione per il disegno è nata quando aveva tre anni e trascorreva già il tempo tra bozzetti, libri e fumetti.

What illustration means to you?
Illustration is a good way to communicate anything in a very direct visceral manner, but, beyond that, you could use it to say anything.

Which was your firstillustration?
Professionally, my first job as an illustrator was a book cover for The Universal Cockroach. I was still a first year university student at that time, so I honestly had no idea what I was doing.

What kind of technique and colors do you use and prefer, and why?
My favorite techniques are ink wash, black ink on paper for high contrast or a cheap Bic pen. Occasionally, I like working digitally. I tend to use a lot of black in most of my work regardless of the medium. I’m constantly told my work is dark, but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Whatever message (or lack of), an illustration is trying to convey. My goal is always to try and capture some emotions as honestly as I can and the black just seems like the most natural way to do it for me. I just try to draw the things I’d usually want to look at.

Which colors do youassociate to Lebanon?
I have very mixed feelings about many different aspects of the Country, so I can’t really generalize about it. But black and white is always a direct way to represent anything, so color isn’t what I first think about usually.

Where do you getyour inspiration?
Practically from anything, but my favorite sources are Hellboy comics. There are certain movie directors that influence me a great deal. My favorite is David Fincher. I also listen to a lot of Nine Inch Nails while I work.

What arethe most common topics in the illustrated books of Lebanon?
We don’t have many, but those that we have vary a great deal. We have everything from erotica to superheroes. More recently, it’s usually some kind of attempt to deal with some contemporary issue. I don’t know how many of them are sincere in their attempts though. It’s much easier to attract attention (or funding) with issues such as the civil war or “the Arab identity” (whatever that means) so I feel a lot of people gravitate towards that simply because it requires less resistance.

How did therecent years mutations changed the wayof  illustratingstoriesin Lebanon?
I’m expanding on the last question with this, but I basically see this progression happening that started with the international success of Persepolis (at least with comics). I feel a lot of people start wanting to hear personal stories that are different from the information available on the news, so artists start wanting to exploit that market niche. I don’t consider it a very honest approach most of the time though. Personally, I couldn’t write or draw directly about my life as I don’t consider it interesting enough. As an industry, I’d say illustration and animation is also growing as a commercial tool in advertising. I suppose it’s the same everywhere to some extent, but I don’t feel we have enough emphasis on using one’s imagination or on honestly conveying an idea. Overall, what I’m trying to say is that the opportunity to illustrate is growing, but I don’t think it’s being nurtured the right way.

How much the current events have affected in Lebanon the way of representing realityand fiction?
Current events are always the driving force behind anything illustrated in Lebanon (unless it’s in advertising where selling a product is the focus). Most people tend to frame it with humor and as a primarily sectarian issue which to me, comes across as a very mediated approach. It tends to ignore or downplay the root of many problems that stem from the socioeconomic distribution of the country and it’s very rare that I see work that conveys the emotional imbalance inherent to this distribution. But maybe I’m not looking hard enough.

If I ask you torepresentthe Mediterraneantoday, what image would you choose in order tomakeyoung people understandhow this area is now changing and evolving?
I recently drew an image that was supposed to be about migration, which I feel represents the Mediterranean just as well as any part of the world these days. It’s of an excited employee leaving one anus and headed for another one.



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