Arts & Culture

Alexander Saroukhan: Remembering the Legendary Political Cartoonist of the 1900s

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Alexander Saroukhan: Remembering the Legendary Political Cartoonist of the 1900s

One of Saroukhan’s comics. Photo courtesy of Al Masar Gallery.

Alexander Saroukhan, late Armenian-Egyptian cartoonist, who lived between 1898 and 1977, was a Pioneer in drawings and caricatures that commented on Egyptian politics at the time.

Saroukhan was born in Armenia 1890 in a village on the top of the Kouqaz Mountains.

At the age of 10, says Jordanian Cartoonist Khaldoon Gharaibeh, Saroukhan showed remarkable artistic talent which enabled him to start unique school magazines full of cartoon drawings.

He eventually published a cartoon magazine called “Jafroush” which received great acclaim before turning 20 years old. It included satirical comments, bringing together journalism and caricature.

According to The Ambassadors Research Association, Saroukhan came to Egypt in 1924 in a long and difficult journey through Belgium and then Austria in his childhood, escaping persecution of Armenians by the Turks and worked for a magazine called “The Pictured Newspaper”.

He met famous journalist Mohamed Al-Tabae, chief editor of Rose Al Youssef magazine, and started drawing the magazine’s covers from March 1928 until 1934.

Later, they both moved to Akhir Sa’a (The Last Hour) weekly magazine in 1934, where one of his most memorable creations is the character Al-Masry Afandi (Mr. Egypt), a symbol representing the conservative Egyptian citizen. The character reflected the Uncle Sam character that represents the U.S. in political cartoons.

In the first issue of Akhir Sa’a weekly magazine, the cover was a drawing that had the chief editor, Saroukhan and Al-Masry Afandi holding hands and marching with a banner of the magazine’s name.

“Akher Sa’a Mosawara” with the Al-Masry Afandi. Photo courtesy of Ambassadors magazine.

In 1946, the twins Mustafa and Ali Amin invited him to the weekly magazine (at the time) Akhbar El-Yom, which he worked for until he died in 1977.

It is said that Saroukhan drew more than 20,000 cartoons in his lifetime.

He also wrote two books, including a collection of drawings called “This is the War” in both English and French, considered one of the greatest artistic accomplishments in the history of wars.

The record contained 150 cartoons chosen from 1000 drawings he drew during the war.

It is also said that he had a strong love for Egypt and that that love was reciprocated by Egyptians since his cartoons had positive political impacts on life in the country.

Saroukhan’s work titled “The Second Great War”. Photo courtesy of the Saroukhan Facebook page.

Saroukhan’s talent was not restricted to cartoon drawing, Gharaibeh adds, but was stretched further to satirical plays in Armenian as well as Armenian and Arabic books with satirical drawings.

Saroukhan was also well received internationally. Gharaibeh says Saroukhan was chosen by an American Group called “From People to People” as one of the most important 14 international cartoonists. He was also awarded in Toronto, New York, Boston, Montreal and his home country Yerevan.

Saroukhan, also, is said to have established an art school for generations to come.

For the first time, a solo exhibition of his work was displayed in 2016 in Al Masar Gallery

More visuals of the country-wide change-maker and pioneer of the comic art work Saroukhan’s work can be found at the Alexander Saroukhan Facebook page.

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Arts & Culture Reporter. Writer and multidisciplinary artist with a passion for podcasting and theatre. Pre-pandemic, can be spotted getting work done from a Cairo coffee shop, train in Delhi or a New York subway. Intra-pandemic, works at a sunny window with lots of iced coffee.

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