comic art by António

António is a Portuguese political cartoonist whose work has often been subject of controversy. He sparked outrage with a 1993 cartoon ridiculing the pope and his stance on his anticonception, while a 2019 cartoon criticizing U.S. president Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu led to such fierce protests that The New York Times rather drastically decided to refrain from publishing political cartoons ever again. At the same time António's work has often won awards and been subject of exhibitions. While best known as a caricaturist and one-panel cartoonist, he once made a satirical comic too, 'Kafarnaum' (1976), lampooning Portuguese politics after the 1974 Carnation Revolution. His cartoons have been exhibited in Lisbon, Porto, Rio de Janeiro, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Macau, Brasília, Barcelona, Recife, Madrid, Paris and Saint-Just-le-Martel.

Early life and career
António Moreira Antunes was born in 1953 in Vila Franca de Xira in Portugal. He grew up under the dicatorial regime of Antonio Salazár and his successor Marcelo Caetano, which shaped his political consciousness and rebellious attitude. He published his first cartoon in the newspaper República on 16 March 1974. A month later the Carnation Revolution broke out, ousting Caetano from power and bringing the country back to democracy. This created a climate where António could be more outspoken in his political opinions. In December of that same year he became home cartoonist of the newspaper Expresso. His cartoons have furthermore appeared in Portuguese newspapers like Diário de Notícias, A Capital, A Vida Mundial and O Jornal.


'Kafarnaum'.

Kafarnaum
On 4 November 1975 António published a serialized satirical comics series, 'Kafarnaum', in Expresso. His comic strip was controversial because it ridiculed his country after the revolution, tackling both the plus sides as well as the down sides. The comic was published in book form in 1976.

Controversy
António's work has often caused outrage. In 1983 he parodied the iconic 1943 photo of Nazis arresting Jewish citizens in the ghetto of Warsaw by changing the Nazi soldiers into Israeli soldiers holding Lebanese women and children under fire. The cartoon referenced the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese War and naturally sparked some protest among certain Jewish and pro-Israel readers. Yet others recognized the satirical touch and the cartoon won first prize at the International Salon of Cartoons in Montréal that year. Interestingly enough, Belgian cartoonist Gal made a similar parody cartoon a year earlier, which also used the iconic ghetto photo to criticize Israel's military actions, only in his case targeting their treatment of Palestinian citizens. His cartoon depicted Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as one of the soldiers, while U.S President Reagan just stands by in the back. Gal's cartoon also sparked angry readers' letters and several people discontinuing their subscriptions.

On 5 December 1992 António created a cartoon depicting Pope John Paul II with a condom for a nose, ridiculing the Church's stance against anticonception. António was particularly inspired by the pope's visit to Uganda, where the church leader stated that "sexual chastity - not condoms - were the only way to put an end to the AIDS epidemic." It appeared in Expresso and quickly caused outrage.

On 25 April 2019 António created a cartoon for Espresso depicting U.S. President Donald Trump as a blind man being led by his dog Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The tiny detail that Trump wears a yarmulke in the cartoon while Netanyahu's dog collar depicts the Star of David led quite some readers accuse the cartoon of being antisemitic. When published in The New York Times it sparked immediate condemnations by Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League and Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. António felt the need to explain his cartoon, when interviewed in the Daily Caller: "The reading I made is that Benjamin Netanyahu's politics, whether by the approach of elections or by being protected by Donald Trump, who changed the embassy to Jerusalem by recognizing the city as capital, and which first allowed the annexation of the Golan Heights and after the West Bank and more annexations in the Gaza Strip, which means a burial of the Oslo Accord, it represents an increase in verbal, physical and political violence," he continued. "It is a blind policy that ignores the interests of the Palestinians. And Donald Trump is a blind man The Star of David [Jewish symbol] is an aid to identify a figure [Netanyahu] that is not very well known in Portugal." He furthermore defended himself by saying he has "utmost respect for the past of the Jewish people, but that this doesn't mean Jewish people are above criticism. The Jewish right doesn't want to be criticized, and therefore, when they say: "We are a persecuted people, we suffered a lot... this is antisemitism." He also pointed out that the cartoon discusses a political issue rather than a religious one, criticizing the perceived pro-Israel bias of the Trump administration.

Espresso defended António, saying that their newspaper "has always defended freedom of expression and opinion, principles we will never renounce." They rejected any assumptions that the cartoon was antisemitic, particularly since António is "an internationally awarded cartoonist." Yet they did apologize to "members of the Jewish community and those who might have felt offended," saying "it was never intended to portray Israel or the Jewish religion and its believers in a less dignified manner." António was also defended by Israeli cartoonist Shay Harka, who parodied the offensive cartoon by replacing blind Trump's head with a New York Times copy, while his dog now has the face of the antisemitic hoax book the Protocols of Zion. U.S. cartoonist A.F. Branco also spoofed the cartoon, by turning Trump into a radical left person and the dog into the N.Y. Times, but dressed in a K.K.K. hat which reads the word "antisemitism".

However, the New York Times took the protests very seriously. They issued a public apology, yet only a few days later, on 30 April 2019, another offensive cartoon depicting Netanyahu appeared in their pages, this time drawn by Norwegian cartoonist Roar Hagen. The drawing shows Netanyahu as Moses ascending the mountain, but instead of the Ten Commandments he holds the Israeli flag logo and a selfie stick. The cartoon implies that he's less concerned about his country and more about his public image. Naturally more controversy rose up and U.S. President Trump tweeted: "The New York Times has apologized for the terrible Anti-Semitic Cartoon, but they haven't apologized to me for this or all of the Fake and Corrupt news they print on a daily basis. They have reached the lowest level of 'journalism,' and certainly a low point in @nytimes history!"

The New York Times then went to draconic measures. On 10 June 2019 they announced they would quit publishing political cartoons from 1 July on. Naturally this news made headlines too. Some critics accused the New York Times of promoting censorship. Other felt all other cartoonists in the paper were now punished for a cartoon they had nothing to do with. Many wondered why the chief editor didn't just resign, rather than use cartoonists as a scapegoat? Fellow cartoonist Patrick Chapatte, one of the New York Times cartoonists now suddenly without a job, condemned the cartoon, but expressed concern that media outlets were increasingly buckling under political pressure and criticism from moralistic mobs on social media. As he explained on his website: "Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists... lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying." French cartoonist and founder of the Cartooning for Peace charity, Jean Plantu, reacted against this measure and stated he was worried "that the future of our democracies and freedom of opinion. One cannot imagine a newspaper without political caricatures. Humour and unsettling images are part of our democracy. Not having biting cartoons is as stupid as asking children not to draw for Mother's Day." 

The concerns became even more outspoken when - during the same month, on 30 June 2019 - Canadian cartoonist Michael de Adder also saw his contract terminated by Brunswick News Inc. over a controversial cartoon criticizing Trump. 

Recognition
In 1983 António won the Grand Prix at the XX International Cartoon Show in Montréal. He received the the Grand Prix d'Honour at the XV Festival du Dessin Humoristique in Anglet, France, in 1993 and the Award of Excellence of the 20th edition of "the Best of Newspaper Design SND" in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1995. In 1994 a special book was published, '20 Anos de Desenhos', where 200 artists paid tribute to António's life and career. He ended ex-aequo winning the Premio Internazional Satira Politica in Fort dei Marmi, Italy, in 2002.

Other activities
During the 1980s António made a limited series of ceramic images and playing cards depicting Portugese politicians. In May 1999 he established the Xira Cartoon Festival, which is still held in his birth town Vila Franca de Xira every year. Every edition invites an international artist as guest, complete with an exhibition highlighting his work. Since their foundation in 2005 he furthermore serves as the chairman of the jury and director of the annual World Press Cartoon Awards. In 2012 António made a series of caricatures of famous Portuguese people which decorate the station to the Lissabon airport. Among the 53 people in his gallery are fado singer Amália Rodrigues, poet Fernando de Pessoa and football player Eusébio.


Cartoon depicting Russian president Vladimir Putin receiving psychiatrical advice about his megalomania from - ironically - Joseph Stalin. 

Series and books by António in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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