Cartooning as a window on society


Oslo Davis: My name is Oslo Davis and I'm a cartoonist and illustrator and I live here in Melbourne, and I've been cartooning and drawing pictures for around 15 years for newspapers and magazines in Australia and around the world.

I'm really inspired to make a joke, to make a point, to do something new and I guess tell stories in a creative way.

Philip from the museum emailed me and asked me if I wanted to be involved in the timeline project. The issue of immigration in Victoria is a big one and a pretty interesting one and I've never worked on anything quite like this before.

I think anything is up for grabs when it comes to cartoons. Controversial topics are very complex, so they can be perfect for cartoons because a cartoonist can hopefully cut through a debate and present something in a very simple form no matter what the topic is. The mere fact that it's a cartoon, people feel a little bit at ease and relaxed and ready to perhaps have some fun or laugh or be entertained. So, from the start they're already in a good frame of mind.

Moya McFadzean: Cartoons have long been a way that people have debated particular issues or presented certain imagery that's relevant to a particular idea or concept or event. However, cartoons have also in the past had a darker side to them as well. In Australia, particularly in the 19th century, they have been a way that cartoonists have presented cultural stereotypes that denigrate and lampoon particular cultural groups and also indigenous peoples as well. So, these are images that we need to now confront and discuss and think about and also learn from and to also demonstrate just how far we've come.

Oslo Davis: It's really important when it comes to cartooning that there is a degree of satire, and I guess by satire we mean subtly insulting or lampooning or ridiculing a situation or an opinion or a group of people or something like that. Stereotypes are very important in cartoons. They help a viewer identify characters or places or issues. Of course, stereotypes can pigeonhole people and I think that cartoonists must be careful not to step over that line.

Offensive work or cartoons or comedy has as its goal I think something that aims to insult or hurt somebody and this is obviously not a good thing. But, comedy and cartoons can have a role to make a smart criticism of somebody which might ruffle their feathers a little bit or get them to think about the other side of the debate. It's more of a softer approach, but I think it's a smarter approach.

Moya McFadzean: Immigration has been fundamental to shaping who we are as Australians. Either from the perspective of all of us who have been migrants, or the perspective of indigenous peoples who have always been here but have been impacted upon by the history of migration.

In the project that Oslo has worked on with the museum, he has been able to really distil some of the key events and issues of Australia's immigration history and Oslo's cartoons sit nicely in parallel providing a new perspective if you like; a contemporary way of looking at issues over time.

Oslo Davis: I hope the cartoons are a new entry point into the history of immigration in Victoria. Almost everyone has some connection to this idea of immigration. It's shaped who our people are in the city. It's shaped our politics and continuing to shape the food we eat and where we shop and the people we go to school with and all sorts of things. So, it's so ingrained in who we are as Australians.

About this Video

This video includes Oslo Davis, discussing his work, as well as Senior Curator of Migration, Dr Moya McFadzean exploring the role of historical cartoons then and now and what they tell us about how we have changed as a society.
Length: 05:42