Hana Hajar: Saudi Arabia's Female Political Cartoonist

Malika at Muslimah Media Watch has a great write-up and interview on Hana Hajar, who is currently the most prominent female cartoonist in Saudi Arabia.

Hajar says she sets her own limits of what she will and won't draw: "I do not do anything related to religion, or sex and the limits of this – I lay [those boundaries] down for myself," she says. "I do not draw anything contrary to my identity as a Muslim. I criticize the negative aspects only."

Some of those negative aspects can be seen in two of Hajar's cartoons that offer social commentary on being a woman:

a Muslim woman, cloaked in a black hijab and abaya, is surrounded by a throng of hands wielding oversized magnifying glasses, all pointed at her. A fuse trails out behind the woman, as another hand reaches out to light it with a match.

This cartoon focuses on how Muslim women are scrutinized by men, as the magnifying-glass-wielding hands reveal. The fuse trailing from her hijab indicates both the pressurized and dangerous effects this has on women.

two women in abayas and niqab riding in a taxi are bombarded on all sides by men, thrusting cell phones and phone numbers at them.

And in this cartoon, two annoyed-looking women in a taxi are harassed by men giving out their numbers and trying to get their attention.

Without knowing Arabic, I unfortunately can't appreciate most of Hajar's work. However, she has an interactive slideshow of many of her comics available on her website.

Hajar has enjoyed drawing since an early age, and today says it's the best way that she articulates social critiques. Her cartoons currently appear in the English-language daily Arab News.

Hajar reports that as a woman it was challenging to break into the art world, which has traditionally been "monopolized by men for a long period of time. But I've found great encouragement from my family and those who are around me." Unsurprisingly, women have responded well to her work, and in turn Hajar encourages them to pursue careers in art as well: "I'll be the first cheerleader to [those] careers."

Saudi Cartoonist Hana Hajar Sketches a Path for Female Cartoonists [Muslimah Media Watch]

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women in cars

I vividly remember an incident such as the cartoon of a woman being harassed by card-wielding Saudi males; I had to follow two cars being driven slowly as details were exchanged. It all seemed to end happily though.

It's really neat to see a

It's really neat to see a woman drawing such poignant statements in places that could benefit from mirrors like hers being held up in front of their faces-- I love that she said she doesn't draw anything that is contrary to her identity as a Muslim, but that she only criticizes the negative aspects.
~tabitha~