Cartoonists touch nerves which political commentators cannot – often raw nerves.
They visualize situations which writers struggle to convey in words. Well crafted political satire makes subtle political insinuations that can shake the most hardened of authoritarian regimes.
In South East Asia cartoonists are a rare breed. The Malaysian Mohammad Nor Khalid or Lat, is possibly the best known cartoonist from this region.
His humorous depiction of life in Malaysia is incisive. It is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand the complexities of Malaysian society and culture, including the relationship between the three main races (Malays, Chinese and Tamils) living in Malaysia.
Much of his work revolves around life in a kampong (village or hamlet in Malay). Reading his cartoons one is reminded of how quickly Singapore has transformed itself from a fishing village kampong into an urban metropolis. (Gratefully, not a concrete jungle like Hong Kong.)
The art of the political cartoon requires an enabling environment. Circumstances which encourage poking fun at authority in a deprecating manner coupled with a thriving media industry.
Is Singapore ready for political satire? ('Attack Iran' by Carlos Lutuff)
Singapore is stuck in the past – an 'obedient' citizenry has meant few questioned authority until recently. The local media industry is controlled entirely by the state and, at least to the naked eye, appears to operate under unwritten rules of self-censorship.
Times have changed. The arts scene is blossoming. Singaporeans are willing to indulge in political satire, at least online. Hopefully, it should not be too long before we start seeing political cartoons with local content in Singapore's daily newspapers.
If not in the newspapers then perhaps a daily cartoon website – there is an appetite for satirical humour which a talented artist can fill. Foreigners welcome?
PS - If anyone knows of any good Singaporean (English language) cartoon websites I will be grateful if you can send me the link. Thanks!