University of the Arts London
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Pen Mendonça - Echoing Inequalities and Picturing Possibilities: Values-Based Cartooning in the 21st Century

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Version 2 2020-06-30, 18:19
Version 1 2020-06-29, 17:15
posted on 2020-06-30, 18:19 authored by Pen Mendonça

It is necessary for comics scholarship to embrace a broader definition of cartooning if it is to consider the significance and social impact of contemporary cartooning beyond graphic novels, comics and newspaper cartoons. Graphic facilitation (an iterative process requiring dialogue, cartooning and collaboration) and associated methods which may be referred to as graphic recording, sketchnoting or scribing, all require at least some engagement with the processes and formal properties found within cartooning and comics. For decades these approaches have offered powerful yet highly subjective approaches to public engagement, coproduction, organisational development, communication, campaigning, research, teaching and learning, often reaching beyond a traditional comics audience. Values-Based Cartooning, developed through a practice-based PhD offers an ethical framework for undertaking and commissioning this kind of work.

Having had the privilege of undertaking more than one thousand commissions in support of those working tirelessly on contemporary social issues ranging from violence against women and single mothering, to disability rights and poverty, the presenter has listened to, observed and represented multiple human rights abuses and systemic failures. This work is not without controversy or risk. It involves asking questions about power, requires an engagement with intersectional identities, with the lived experience of others, along with high levels of emotional labour. Completed or perhaps photographed in progress, cropped or annotated, posted or printed on postcards, her graphics linger on the walls of care homes and prison visits rooms, on social media threads and websites, in academic and policy publications. Echoes of ever-present inequalities haunt this kind of work, just as they haunt our lives and communities. As Covid-19 has highlighted, cartoonists and academics need to use every tool, every post, publication, process or presentation we can, to overpower the noise and devastation that comes with both subtle and aggressive forms of ageism, disablism, racism, sexism, homophobia and extremism. Given that our pens, palettes, screens and skills can be used to represent violence, hate and untruths just as vividly as they can celebrate humanity, we are confronted with dilemmas about when, whether and how to promote understanding, possibility and hope.



Dr Penelope Mendonça is an independent graphic facilitator and cartoonist with more than 25 years working across the UK public and voluntary sectors. Her graphics are widely published and have been translated in to numerous languages. Pen’s PhD (University of the Arts London), developed the concept of Values-Based Cartooning as a research method for accessing and representing social issues. She is a member of the Comics Research Hub at London College of Communication. Her essays on single motherhood are in Women: A Cultural Review and Demeter Press books. Jessica Kingsley is publishing her book on Values-Based Cartooning @MendoncaPen

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