Jonathan Shapiro - Zapiro
At a time when white males were being conscripted, Jonathan changed directions and decided to study architecture to stay out of the army, but it didn’t really work and could no longer be avoided. He went into the army, yet refused to carry a gun – already defined himself and his strong stance.
Today a visual commentator, Jonathan still has a strong feeling for newspapers, ordering in all that he can and finding the rest on line. ‘I like the idea that people cut out my cartoons and have them yellowing on their fridge.’ Keeping up with current affairs he listens to the radio, watches TV and follows live broadcasts, remaining constantly tuned in.
‘I really like that in South Africa we have a huge among of freedom of expression. I know that it hasn’t always been this way with censoring, backlisting, and media control, but generally people are able to speak out. This can be over the top, especially on social media where there is a viciousness – yet in terms of my own work as a cartoonist I am able to publish what would never be allowed elsewhere.’
Time with Zapiro allows him to share some of his endless stories of the interesting people he has met. ‘One of the most incredible moments for me was receiving a phone call from Nelson Mandela. I had met him and had interactions with him, and in 1998 while sitting in my studio when my wife said “it’s the President’s office on the line” and I was told to wait for President Mandela. I thought that friends of mine were messing with me. Soon realising that it really was Mandela who was upset that my cartoons would no longer be in the Cape Argus. He liked seeing my cartoons every day. I was doing 4 days a week in the Soweto and they were being reprinted in the Cape Argus in Cape Town so he could see them while down. Yet with the change this would no longer be possible.’
Born in Cape Town in 1958, the city holds a multifaceted fascination. ‘I love the place and the scenery and do a lot of walking in the mountains and cycling, which allows me to be immersed in the natural environment. At the same time it is desperately frustrating as in the 80’s it was more open and integrated, but Cape Town in the democratic era seems to have retrogressed into an island of something old, something that does seem to be breaking down.’