Art Mocking Life

Our relationship with food is complex. In its simplest form food is meant to provide energy and nutrients to sustain us through the day, but with the evolution of man came the complications of social and emotional eating.  In most social settings around the world, food is a means to an end; a way of saying I love you, of spending time with good company, of celebrating joyous occasions. When food becomes the focus, we loose the benefits of interaction and bonding, and extreme behaviors, such as overeating, bulimia and anorexia, reveal themselves.

It takes a creative mind to pinpoint the follies of the society it lives in. Without such visionaries, who would hold up the mirror and pause to ask “Look here, is this right?”  We cannot improve or progress without constructive criticism.  Mohamed Zwawi, a Libyan political caricaturist and satirical cartoonist does just that. He pinpoints our vices and shortcomings; the paradoxes of daily Libyan life. His cartoons, when taken lightly, are laughed at, but in truth these images are laughing at us. A good dose of sarcastic black humor is a good wake up call – for those who get the joke anyways.

Far from politics, most of Zwawi’s cartoons capture the essence, the unique characteristics of the Libyan people.  A good look at these drawings tells us two things: 1. food is a key element of our social fabric; 2. our relationship with food is excessive. According to Zwawi, gluttony is one of our society’s greatest flaws.

A "Desperate Housewife", Libyan style!

The way we prepare and eat our food says a lot about who we are. Gluttony, or extreme overeating is considered to be sinful or in poor taste in most cultures and religions including Islam. A lack of self-respect and the act of self-destruction are tied to this. Some of Zwawi’s cartoons are showcased below to illustrate this. May they be the inspiration for a life of healthy eating!

"Oh my Halouma (name), what's wrong you're barely eating... on the prophet...may God curse you...may God break you if you're shy... please try some of these light snacks before tea"
This Libyan ex-pat is glad to be home.
Social eating in Libya, no socializing is involved, it's all about the food.
Picnics are about bringing the indoors out. Notice the contradiction between the simple enjoyment of food by the ex-pat family in front of the pink car, and the extreme measures taken to make large meals by the rest of the Libyan families.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Tariq Bukres says:

    Enjoyed it very much and will share it with my followers on Twitter who are from different parts of the world to know about our Libyan Culture.

  2. Thanks again, Tariq. Keep reading and tweeting! Let me know if there is anything you would like me to write about in the future.

  3. Amal says:

    Yes, Zwawi certainly is an important part of our Libyan culture… Such an intelligent, witty, and talented artist. I think reviving his art through your article was wonderful. His art always depicted serious matters and blew them out of proportion to open the eyes of his audience and make them smile, constructive and never insulting..(as you said, if you get it!) Perhaps he will go down in Libyan history as Erasmus in English Literature did🙂 and perhaps our passion for food/gluttony will be past gone by then.. Ambitious? lol maybe, but positive for change… Thank you for a stop at self reflection Sarah, great article!

  4. Thanks so much for getting it Amal! Proud to have a cultured and well spoken Libyan like you take part in this project. We can always use a little self-reflection once in a while. I must admit comfort eating has always been my downfall! I do believe that we can change, maybe We Are Food will do for Libya what Jamie Oliver is doing for the UK and USA. Now that’s ambitious!

    1. Amal says:

      Ambitious ideas stem from a powerful passion for change… We’ll get there slowly but surely, and We Are Food is certainly a step in the right direction.. So let’s remain ambitious and celebrate with… what do you think? A chilled glass of Rozata or Jasmine tea with “raghwa”?🙂

  5. Ahhhhhhh … nothing says celebration like Rozata and Abambar🙂

  6. Amal says:

    Sahha!! (To your health!!)

  7. Haitam Alageli says:

    Zwawi’s paintings are never insulting that’s why; Firstly, he is enjoying himself as a part of a rich food centered culture (as I would simply do), and secondly as an artist, fixing the society is not on the top of his priority list. So Zwawi’ paintings are not laughing at us, instead they are laughing with us. His paintings represent who we are and we love them for that. All respect Mr. Zwawi and thanks Sarah for enlighten us, those articles are positively changing our lives.

  8. Thanks for your infinite support Haitam. You know you are the best critic I’ll ever have!

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