24.5.15

Reviewing a sample- Malik Sajad's 'MUNNU- A boy from Kashimir' publsihed by 4th Estate

The other day I was asked to comment on a new up-coming graphic novel from 4th Estate .
 The tile is  'MUNNU- A boy from Kashimir' by Malik Sajad, a young artist who studied Visual Art at Goldsmiths in London.I'm not a man of words, not sure how well I can write about it... 


Rather closer to David B’s ‘Epilepsy’ than Marjane Satrapi’s 'Persepolis',this story of a young boy’s account over oppressed Kashmir during the early 90’s opened a new insight into this part of the world- an almost completely unknown territory for me personally(I wasn’t even aware that Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan.) 

The first time I heard the name ‘Kashmir’ was from one of the Led Zeppelin classics but that was it. How embarrassing it was after reading this sample sent to me.


Firstly what I liked about Malik Sajad’s artwork was that his depiction of Kashmiri people as deer and how he gave other human characters such as Indians and Pakistanis normal human features- quite an influence from Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’ but the tale’s feel isn’t as deadly and dark as 'Maus' thanks to the fact that the protagonist is a small child and his innocent dream to be an artist lifts the atmosphere, brings upbeat and easier access.

Of course there’s a strong sense of cynicism in the scene where the main character, Munnu opts to draw AK-47 than photos of disfigured victims from the conflict on newspaper. This scene subtly tells what an extraordinary environment he lives in. It doesn’t mean Munnu is violent but he lives so closely to these things- familiar no longer shocking. Kids draw the most familiar things. Luckily in Japan they draw Manga and Anime characters instead of guns. However it remains hopeful as his parents step in to make sure all of his children don’t get affected or involved with the craziness going around in their daily lives.

  It’s a growing up story but also a tale of one family’s everyday in the middle of an unsolvable political destruction.


 

It is also quite noticeable that the artist’s first visual influence came from woodcut printing and his father, an artisan in this, teaches young Munnu rather reluctantly. It gives me a smile the author doesn’t hesitate to show his influence but rather turned it into his own strength and artistic personality. It comes to its full strength when the pages start to tell the legend of Kashmir and how the country got established, and subsequently invaded, ruled, and divided into in the recent history. To me these pages give lasting impression with classic, old scroll like layouts-elaborate but powerful.

How fascinating it is to find out what the next chapters will talk about Kashmir and how Munnu will learn to fulfill his dream to be an artist.

Lastly it is the power of comic books to enable us to access easily to a difficult subject matter. It certainly gives us some hint of how a survival can be done.

The book is coming out on 4th June.