This Friday, July 6, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Meow Wolf is hosting a one-time political cartoon workshop with Issa Nyaphaga in the The David Loughridge Learning Center. If you haven’t heard of Nyaphaga, then you’re missing out because his story is an inspiring one. The artist has been working on political cartoons since his teens; he got his start in his home country of Cameroon, where his work eventually landed him in jail several times. In 1994, he fled to Paris, where he lived in exile until emigrating to the United States.
His philosophy on art is a simple one, “We’re all already artists, we just don’t know it yet.” Nyaphaga advocates that an artist is just someone expressing themselves honestly, something he learned at an early age. He grew up in a Muslim family with four mothers and a religious father. As a young man, Nyaphaga was very interested in the world around him and tried to express this interest through artistic representations, something religiously forbidden in his home. Nyaphaga remembers his struggles clearly, “I was [as a child] responding to what was happening around me. Any time I found magazines, I mimicked their contents. Anything that was out there that I was challenged by, I added to my own flavor. Artistic expression is related to freedom. No one tells you how to occupy that space. It allows you your own identity.”
Nyaphaga’s birth mother quickly noticed his struggles as a burgeoning artist. She brought him, as a young man, to her home village, where members made their livings growing in the rainy season and painting in the dry season. This move allowed Nyaphaga to develop into the artist he wanted to become.
Today, he continues to practice as a artist, making political cartoons, spreading his story and his philosophies and as a global community activist. He is the founder of Hope International for the Tikar People, a nonprofit centered around his hometown in Cameroon. Drawing on his experience in radio production, Nyaphaga started Radio Taboo 96.0 FM, a solar powered, non-governmental radio station in Cameroon that broadcasts in 10 languages and has a reach of approximately one million listeners.
Speaking toward the creation and artistry needed for political cartoons, Nyaphaga says, “It’s not an easy practice, people get nervous [from political ideas].” Nonetheless, he advocates that anyone with opinions, who is willing to be honest about those opinions, will find they have the power and the vision to create relevant work capable of speaking to people.
Nyaphaga’s class, Political Cartoon Workshop, is appropriate for all skill levels and sign up is only $36. With Nyaphaga’s deep experience and his inspiring story, the take away is incomparable. We’re honored by the opportunity to host this artist, and hope that many will take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn from a master political cartoonist and a truly inspiring person.
You can learn more about Nyaphaga, his life and ideas from his TEDxABQ talk: A Lifelong Struggle for Freedom of Expression.