Tag: Comics

State Meddling, Government Funding, Drawing + Passion–Singapore’s New Illustration Scene

Illustration Arts Fest posters featured the works of André Wee and Caleb “bucketcaleb” Tan.
Credit: Illustration Arts Fest

What started ten years ago as drawing sessions for a group of illustrators in Singapore has grown into the inaugural Illustration Arts Fest (IAF), marking a milestone for Singapore’s illustration scene.

The event is overseen by festival director Michael Ng (better known as Mindflyer), and takes place over two weekends that bring together local illustrators and comics creators for workshops, talks, and a marketplace. According to Ng, it’s the “ultimate climax” for a loose network of illustrators that he co-founded with Lee Wai Leng (Fleecircus), and Andrew Tan (Drewscape), the Organisation of Illustrators Council (OIC).

“Who are the illustrators? Nobody knew a few years back,” says Ng. “Clients and friends are finally realizing we have interesting illustrators at home, and that you don’t have to go to Japan or America or England to see something different.”

Read the full story in AIGA’s Eye on Design

The return of political cartoons

“You cannot mock a great leader in an Asian Confucian society.
If he allows himself to be mocked, he is finished.”
Lee Kuan Yew commenting on how the media portrayed the Tiananmen demonstrations using cartoons and caricatures

Election fever and the lack of state regulation online saw a resurgence in a graphic form that has almost become extinct in Singapore: political cartoons.

Throughout the 2011 General Election, several blogs published cartoons on how they saw the hustings, often poking fun at politicians and the remarks they made. Below is a list of some of them, click to check out their cartoons!

    Except for Cartoon Press, the other five blogs have been around for  a while. Both My Sketchbook and Blinking Brink are the oldest, having been around since 2006.

    While the cartoons may look amateurish, their content is much more hard-hitting that what you’ll find on the newspapers, where editorial cartoons like these have traditionally been found. The government’s tight control of the mass media over the last few decades had forced out similar work from pioneers like Kwan Sai Kheong, Tan Huay Peng and Morgan Chua.

    The late Kwan freelanced for the Singapore Free Press and The Straits Timesbetween 1946 and 1951, before he eventually became a Permanent Secretary. He also designed the Merlion statue. Peng joined ST in 1955, and when he left in 1962 he was the paper’s Chief Artist. Even after his departure, the late Peng continued to contribute work to the paper till the ’80s. Finally, Morgan started out at the Singapore Herald, and after the newspaper got banned in the 1970s, he left for Hong Kong to draw for the Far Eastern Economic Review for the next 25 years.

    The generation of editorial cartoonists that followed, like ST’s Dengcoy MielLee Chee ChewThe New Paper’s Lee Hup Kheng and Lianhe Zaobao’s Heng Kim Song did not draw their inspiration from politics, or at least local politics. The only exception, although his work was not published in newspapers, was George Nonis who published two cartoon books documenting the generational change in Singapore’s politics with his Hello Chok Tong, Goodbye Kuan Yew (1991) book, and a decade later, From Kuan Yew to Chok Tong And Beyond (2001).

    If you’re interested to find out more about editorial cartoons and Singapore’s history, check out Lim Cheng Tju’s Singapore Comix. He has also been written well-researched pieces, including Lest We Forget: The importance of history in Singapore and Malaysia Comic Studies.

    Urbanism and PAP’s election campaign

    While trawling through the Picture Archives Singapore Database for some research on past elections, I came across these two comics that were part of the People’s Action Party (PAP) 1963 elections campaign.


    This comic resembles a polling card and persuades voters to choose the PAP (marked with a ‘X’) by equating its logo with a modern city of schools, HDB flats, infrastructure and religious sites. As this elections was held just five days after Singapore merged with Malaysia, the city’s background appropriately depicts the Malaysian flag.

    In contrast to the PAP, the comic also illustrates its opponents the Barisan Sosialis and the Singapore Alliance as communists and corrupt respectively. The Barisan’s logo becomes a two-headed snake and is accompanied with a graphic that shows them presenting Singapore to the communists. As for the Singapore Alliance, its boat logo has weak sails, while its candidates are depicted as rich people who give away money to hooligans.


    This second comic promotes the progress Singapore has made under PAP’s rule since it came into power in 1959. Again, the image of the modern city is used, this time in the background, while the foreground shows how corruption, lies and the unpatriotic have been crushed or surrendered.


    2006 PAP 0

    Comparing these comics with how election posters evolved over the years, there is a shift towards ‘looking objective’ and ‘professional’. Nowadays, campaign materials make no reference to the opponents, and photographs are used instead, even if it’s a composed image like the this 2006 poster. Of course, another reason is because these technology (e.g. Photoshop, photography) are now more readily available than in the ’60s.

    If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in these posters is the use of the modern city as a backdrop in a PAP election visual —  a reflection of urbanism as a integral tool of this political party.