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Cover Story

Cartoonist Godfrey Mwampenmbwa (GADO)

Volume 12, Issue 3  | 
Published 01/03/2016
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Eunice Luchera Kamaara and Naomi Luchera Shitemi (Editors) interviewed the cartoonist Godfrey Mwampembwa, popularly known as Gado. This interview first appeared in ‘Wanjiku – A Kenyan Sociopolitical Discourse’ published by Contact Zones, Nairobi to which attribution is made.

Editors: What is your recollection of the inception / creation / origin of Wanjiku on the Kenyan scene?

Gado:   I think it was in the late nineties. This was after President Moi made a dismissive reference that Wanjiku does not know anything about the constitution.

Editors: When did you as an artist introduce Wanjiku to the public through the media?

Gado: As an artist, I did introduce Wanjiku after Moi mentioned her dismissively sometime in the late nineties. I had drawn a Wanjiku here and there before, but it was not at the same level of engagement and articulation. And more so, I used to use a male character to represent a common man/woman.

Editors: In our telephone discussion sometime back in 2011 you mentioned that your Wanjiku was different from former President Moi's Wanjiku. Please explain who you consider Moi's Wanjiku to be.

Gado: President Moi introduced Wanjiku as a nobody common woman-some sort of a lumpenproletariat-somebody who does not really understand issues, somebody who (leaders/politicians) others should decide for. Very much in line with how we dismiss the village mama mboga, a common woman, and women in general. With time, I fashioned my Wanjiku as somebody who is articulate, smart, funny, and aware of her rights, and knows what she wants. This as a character, of course, for me, took a while to develop.

Editors: How do you think Moi's Wanjiku has been transformed over time?

Gado:     As I mentioned, it took time to develop and transform my Wanjiku character graphically and ideally. For me, it was to rebel against Moi's description. I felt with time that the common woman (man) who Wanjiku represents is aware of the social, political and economic environment in which she operates and knows what she wants. So I created a character that is smart, articulate, bold, and is not afraid to state her opinion and, of course, has a sense of humour.

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Apr-211-595x450 ok
Aug-04-12-TJRC-report-595x436 ok
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Dec-11 ok
Feb 07 11 Are we ready for Tunisia-Egypt Revolution ok
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Editors: Please explain who you consider your Wanjiku to be.

Gado:     I consider Wanjiku to represent the common woman/man. Man on the street, the mama mboga, the jua kali mechanic, the watchman, etc.

Editors: Occasionally you locate a male figure alongside the female figure of Wanjiku in your graphics. What does the male figure stand for?

Gado:    It can stand for anything. It can be the president, a politician, or a government official, and it can be a fellow mwananchi. It really depends on the situation and the subject at hand. In all this Wanjiku has remained true to her views and what she thinks. Never afraid to speak her mind. That is how I have wanted her to be.

Editors: What, in your view, significantly differentiates the roles of the male and female figures in relation to the message you intend to portray?

Gado:    I think because I deliberately made my Wanjiku bold, smart, funny, articulate and not afraid to speak her mind, ... it gives her edge, since that is not expected from a female character. And, therefore, I feel she has had an impact of some sort as compared to, let's say, if she was a male character....

Editors: Other media have presented graphics that embody characters similar to Wanjiku. Do you consider them to play the same role as your Wanjiku?

Gado:    Some have and some have not. There have been other comic strip characters like Wanjiku over the years(and in the past) in other parts of the world, like the maid character Eve in the popular South African strip "Madam and Eve" ....

Editors: Please comment on the use of a female character in your graphic depiction of Wanjiku .... Do you limit Wanjiku to female representation?

Gado: No. The character tackles all sorts of issues and, therefore, I have not limited her to issues concerning one gender. She has commented on gay issues, global issues such as environment, and all manner of subjects. Yes, she has been more vocal when it comes to some woman issues but she has never shied away from other subjects. Does Wanjiku embody gender inclusiveness? Yes. As a defender of common woman/man, she has always represented both genders....

GADO ok
GADO-07-12 ok
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Jul-14 ok
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July 06 08 Camelfrom Libya
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jan-18b ok
jan-31 ok

More in this category: « Calling Wanjiku

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