Arleb by Nabad interviews Beirut-based illustrator, writer, musician, and cartoonist Bernard Hage, commonly known as “The Art of Boo“. Hage’s cartoons are published weekly by l’Orient-le-Jour, a leading French-language daily newspaper in Lebanon.
Arleb by Nabad – What are the themes/subjects you usually tackle and why?
Bernard Hage – I tend to talk about anything that bothers me. That’s everything, really. From the moment I wake up until I’m fully dressed and ready to start the car, I’m exposed to multiple sources of frustration. From power cuts, slow internet, cold showers, loud neighbors, and traffic noises, all the way to reading the morning news as I have my coffee. And this is only the first hour of my day. In Lebanon you don’t go looking for inspiration you see, it offers itself to you. whether you like it or not. And I’m so grateful for not knowing how to handle a gun, can you imagine a weekly mass shooting taking place instead of my weekly cartoons in the paper?
Arleb by Nabad – What about your new book’s central message or main ideas?
Bernard Hage – I believe the book [Anatomy of a Hummus Plate] serves as a fair introduction to Lebanon. The themes differ from Lebanese society, Lebanese politics, the October 17 revolution, all the way to the Pandemic, and the Beirut port explosion. There’s also a section of international humor and non-political cartoons, followed by a section of drawings with a sense of humor slightly darker than what people are normally used to.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the main challenges/obstacles facing artists and creative enterprises in Lebanon nowadays?
Bernard Hage – The cultural sector in Lebanon has always been neglected, it is hardly breaking news that artists and creatives are facing hurdles. They’ve always counted on international organizations and private funders’ help to produce their work, but now under the current circumstances, it’s becoming harder to sustain the minimum level of productivity. In dire situations like this one, people normally look for other opportunities abroad, to have more security and recognition for their work. And guess what, they’ll do just fine as most of them are educated and multilingual. The real problem that needs to be discussed here is Lebanon without its creative minds.
Arleb by Nabad – What are, according to you, the roles of arts and culture, especially cartoons, in social, economic, environmental, or political change?
Bernard Hage – In my case, I have been using my cartoons to document daily events unconventionally, through humor and sarcasm. A joke travels much faster than an article or a speech, and that’s a big advantage. Humor helps break this godly image we have of politicians in Lebanon and diminishes them into humans again. When you make fun of something, it becomes replaceable and easier to deal with. Humor serves as a reminder that everything worth taking seriously, is worth making fun of. Its job is to deconstruct the temples of fear and oppression. When you’re laughing, you can’t be afraid.