Graphic arts enthusiasts flocked to the French Cultural Center in Mounira on Sunday evening to celebrate the launch of the second issue of TokTok, Egypt’s breakout graphic arts magazine.
The well-organized and attended event featured a signing with the artists and a display of drawings from the new issue. Attendees also enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to chat in person with the contributors.
TokTok is the brainchild of Mohammed Shennawy, a comic strip artist, graphic designer, and advertising executive. Inspired by his childhood experiences with Egyptian comics and later exposure to European publications, Shennawy has created a professional and unique publication that provides an alternative platform for comic strip artists away from the traditional realm of children’s comics.
“All the comic magazines in Egypt were for children and there was a gap in the field of comic strips for an older youth and adult audiences. We wanted TokTok to be a place for more sophisticated comics to flourish,” Shennawy told the Daily News Egypt.
In this endeavor, Shennawy and his fellow artists were inspired by European comic reviews and Arab publications like Lebanon’s Samandal and Algeria’s Bendir. While focusing on comics, they also wanted to create a review-style magazine that also includes short commentaries and drawings.
The second issue of the self-funded magazine, dedicated to the martyrs, is filled with depictions of the January 25 Revolution. As can be expected of a traditionally iconoclastic genre, the strips in TokTok 2 address the perennial themes of revolution with creativity and humor.
Standout pieces in the new issue included a light-hearted take on the new reality of tanks in Egypt’s streets. Shennawy’s beautifully-illustrated strip shows a local parking attendant using his skills on a passing tank before being scared off by the sound of gunfire.
“Bioulak” by Hisham Rahma and Tamer Abdelhamid is a clever social commentary on Egyptians’ love for the word bioulak and the different ways they employ it to stay out of trouble and remove themselves from the implications of their words. Rahma and Abdelhamid suggest that 2011 should mark the end of bioulak, and its implied disconnection of Egyptians from responsibility for their own fate.
“Tarat” by Migo, is a touching depiction of the problems of love and marriage in Egypt. In the simple strip, Migo chronicles the story of Hosam, a young man who encourages his pet pigeon, Fairouz, to fly. As Fairouz takes flight, Hosam learns that his girlfriend is to be engaged soon, and his hopes for the future are dispersed into thin air.
The issue also includes reproductions of some cartoons that Shennawy and another prominent artist, Makhlouf, drew for the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. These drawings depict iconic themes from the revolution including religious tolerance, the presence of the military in the streets and the bravery and resourcefulness of the protesters.
“Although we published social commentary in the first issue, our feeling of freedom when putting together the new issue was greater, but we want to use this new freedom in a smart way. When doing political content we like to address issues in a roundabout, indirect way,” Shennawy explained.
Anyone can submit work to TokTok, and Shennawy says that many young Egyptian comic artists have jumped at the chance to publish more nuanced stories.
“A lot of comic artists in Egypt work at children’s magazines, but they have a lot of sophisticated ideas they’d like to express, and TokTok offers a place to do that,” he said.
Work is selected for each issue based on the theme and style. While TokTok receives many excellent submissions on a wide range of topics, Shennawy emphasizes that the magazine is focused around social and political commentary related to Egypt, in Arabic.
The hunger for culture fuelled by the revolution was in evidence at Sunday’s event, which was even more well-attended than the magazine’s debut in January. Given this explosion of inspiration, TokTok has nowhere to go but forward.
"Tok Tok" Art.