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India, Spain share a laugh over cartoons

Sunday June 24, 2012 10:04:46 AM, IANS

New Delhi: What did the Indian man tell his fat wife clambering up a pole for safety in a Spanish bull ring with the beast charging at her? "Didn't I tell not to wear the red sari?"

Humour and art can create easy understandings of cultures and diverse geography. India and Spain on Saturday opened a humorous cultural dialogue with a mammoth exposition of cartoons and animation art by late noted Indian cartoonist Mario de Miranda and Spanish pioneer Ramon Gomez de la Serna.

The showcase with more than 100 cartoons coincides with the San Juan Day, the biggest summer party in Spain, at the Institutes de Cervantes in the capital. It is a collaboration between Instituto Cervantes, the Embassy of Spain, the Tourism Office of Spain and the ABC Museum.

Mario's caricature art illustrates a unique Indo-Spanish connection with Indian stereotypes and Spanish characters sharing space in one frame. In 2007, the Goa-based social cartoonist and illustration artist visited Spain. In his memoir, Mario recalls that, "one of the most exciting things was a grand tour through Spain, a lovely country steeped in romance and history".

"We visited some of the great cities of Spain like Madrid, Barcelona and Seville although we could not make it to Toledo, which I had visited in the past. It was an unforgettable experience to travel through the French countryside dotted with olives and orange trees, rich in art and history, with its museums, castles, fort and famous names".

Mario's experience of Spain creeps into his body of "Spanish" art with a section of humorous cartoons and documentary illustrations of Spanish architecture and cultural landmarks using his trademark layered animation technique.

The results are amazing. Mario puts Indian and Spanish musicians together in a joint orchestra with a portly Bharatanatyam dancer doing the Flamenco in the traditional style. Classical Hindustani vocalists sing "Sa Re Ga..." to the horror of the Spanish audience and a group of Indian musicians sweat over a western style Spanish orchestra. The cartoons comment on cultural assimilation - and the impressions Spain leaves on the Indian tourist.

The 1931 doodle drawings of Ramon Gomez De La, a friend of poet Octavio Paz and one of the country's celebrated artists, are simple, meditative and minimal in comparison to Mario's.

Ramon's sketches were reflections of a new Spanish world influenced by European vanguards and fractured by the imminent civil war. His cartoons ferreted out the contradictions of modern life with swift wit.

Inaugurating the exposition, political cartoonist Ajit Ninan said: "Cartoonists like Laxman and Mario stole the entire cartoon space in India. Mario was an intricately detailed cartoonist - and we are a land of details."

He said Mario had the advantage of being a social, political and international cartoonist. "He was the master of architectural layers," Ninan said.

Comparing history in the tradition of cartooning in India and the Latin American world, Ninan told IANS, "We are totally controlled by the English and American style of cartoons but the richest cartoons come from Latin America because they have no language. They are silent powerful illustrations." He said the natural talent of Indian cartoonists was drawing brisk animation trade to India.

The Institutes de Cervantes is talking to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to carry showcase to Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities of the country.

"This is not a flash in the pan. Spain has declared India as one of its top foreign policy priorities. The king of Spain might come to India at the end of the year," a spokesperson for the Embassy of Spain said.





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