The Pen is Mightier

On Thursday 20 October 2011, I was sitting at my desk in a South Korean English academy as I watched the Arab Spring unfold from afar. While the revolutionary spirit swept across the region like a wild fire, igniting dormant Arab rage and discontent against the dehumanising force of institutionalised oppression, I kept in close contact with my father, Hasan Dhaimish; a Libyan whose formative years, national psyche and artistic consciousness is bound to the illusive dream of social transformation in the Arab world.     

Hasan was stationed in the office of a newly-formed Libyan TV station based in Doha at the time, but the geographical distance separating us momentarily dissipated when we spoke via Skype as the harrowing images of Gaddafi′s mutilated body flooded local and international media outlets.

In this din of grisly celebration and bloody relief, I felt disorientated by the sudden surrealism of the moment; this was the corpse of the caricature I have known all my life. Although I was kept in the dark about the reality of the man it represented, I realised with time and maturity that it was for good reason.

Growing up in Benghazi during the 1960s, my father Hasan, aka Alsatoor, belonged to the generation that witnessed Libya′s first stint of independence for centuries. Gaddafi′s bloodless coup d′etat replaced the short-lived Kingdom of Idris II, inflicting a political division that continues to ravage Libya′s socio-political landscape.

Like many young Libyans, Alsatoor became disenchanted by Libya′s lack of prosperity and saw a move abroad as salvation from Gaddafi′s megalomania. His artistic flare already came to life at a young age with Libya′s political climate shaping his satirical style. He began ridiculing Gaddafi in the early 70s, though the cartoons were meant for nobody′s eyes but his own.

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