Born in Cape Town in 1958, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) couldn’t imagine a career in cartooning, so opted to study architecture at the University of Cape Town. After realising that a career in architecture wasn’t for him, he tried switching to Graphic Design and promptly got conscripted, but while in the army refused to bear arms, and became active in 1983 in the newly-formed United Democratic Front.
His arrest under the Illegal Gatherings Act caused some consternation in the SADF (South African Defence Force) and his being monitored by military intelligence while he participating in the End Conscription Campaign, even designing its logo. His work as a cartoonist began in earnest with a wide range of political and progressive organisations when the newspaper South began in 1987 and he became its editorial cartoonist.
Zapiro is a legend on the South African political arena.
Shapiro was detained by security police in 1988 shortly before leaving on a Fulbright Scholarship to study media arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York. New York was an eye-opening experience where he studied under comics masters Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.
He returned to South Africa in 1991 and Is currently the editorial cartoonist for the Sunday Times and Daily Maverick. Previously he was editorial cartoonist for Mail & Guardian, The Times, the Sowetan, Cape Argus, Cape Times, The Star, The Mercury and Pretoria News.