Dhaka Tribune's Nawaz Farhin Antara met Morshed, assistant editor of famous satire magazine Unmad, to discuss his cartoons, achievements, and future plans
Abdullah Al Morshed -- pen name Morshed Mishu -- has been transforming tragic imagery into joyful displays since the beginning of 2018. With his 'Global Happiness Challenge' project, the Bangladeshi cartoonist hopes to show how beautiful the world can be.
How did you get started making cartoons? What inspired you?
My earliest inspiration was my older brother -- a Madrasa student -- with whom I drew cartoons, after he came home from school. In short: drawing cartoons was a fundamental part of my childhood.
Currently there are no formal institutions in Bangladesh to teach cartoon drawing. How do you feel about that?
I think Unmad is the closest thing we have to such an institution in Bangladesh -- over 80% of the nation's cartoonists come from there.
There is a state-owned art institution -- the Faculty of Fine Arts in Dhaka University -- and there are a few other private institutions, but they seldom teach drawing cartoons. Unmad, however, has a dedicated platform called "Cartoon People" that is set to introduce a cartoon teaching program comprised of 16 courses, starting May 10. The aim is to form a bona fide cartoon school further down the line.
If I were to say cartoons are not encouraged enough in our society, would you agree with the statement? If so, why?
I would say any sort of creative work is hardly encouraged in our society as there is a certain element of risk associated.
It's hardly limited to art, of course. Other creative professions, be it photography or cinematography, are discouraged as they are not lucrative endeavours, generating tons of money. But I have faith in the new generation, which is proving with each passing day, that creativity can indeed translate into tangible success.
You are assistant editor at Unmad, a satire magazine that has been around for 40 years. What is it like, being a part of something so big?
It's more like being part of a family.
We have a term: "Once an Unmad, always an Unmad." Our chief, and my mentor, Ahsan Habib, never treats us like employees, but as family members. Being a part of this legendary family for its 40th year is my greatest achievement.
Two of my other big achievements were when, in 2012, two of my cartoons were selected for Unmad’s cartoon festival, and then when my cartoon received first prize celebrating Unmad's 40th year.
Your project, 'The Global Happiness Challenge,' focuses on transforming tragic imagery into expressions of happiness. Where did that idea come from?
One night, last year, I was having trouble falling asleep after seeing a few pictures of the wars and violence all over the world. I saw many pictures of people suffering.
Suddenly I had this idea of portraying those same pictures as a cartoonist, in a positive, happy light. I took heartbreaking pictures of war and death, and redrew them into situations of love, happiness, and unity.
So far, I have 11 such illustrations.
Your project has received tremendous praise worldwide. You even made the Forbes’ '30 Under 30' list for 2019. How does that make you feel?
I hope younger generations keep faith and take this as an example of how creativity can translate into success. Of course, it's hardly an achievement I can call my own -- it is our nation's, representing Bangladesh to the rest of the world.
Any plans for the future you can share with us?
To continue to do good work. I plan to launch an exhibition after I finish about 30 of my "Global Happiness Challenge" artwork.