The affordable education loan option
Acclaimed cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) is refusing to bow to pressure from South African Hindu organisations to apologise over a cartoon depicting Lord Ganesha offering money to Cricket SA (CSA) in return for the sacrifice of its chief executive, Haroon Lorgat.
In an interview with the Daily News on Tuesday morning, Shapiro said that while he had no intention of apologising for the cartoon, it was not his intention to offend the Hindu community.
“I’m not out to court controversy. I wanted to do a cartoon that was intelligible to the average reader in South Africa. Something that would speak to people and something that showed what people have been feeling. In doing so I look for imagery that I feel will work. I certainly did not set out to offend a group of people,” he said.
Shapiro said his cartoon was not about religion and the image of Ganesha was used as a metaphor.
“I don’t want to come across as brutal. (But) if pushed I will, so I don’t think I will apologise. I stand by the cartoon and I thought it worked very well and I got quite a few good responses.
“As with many other cartoons I have done (the offence) is done unintentionally. With different kinds of cartoons (offence) is cause intentionally. But not on this one.”
The cartoon, carried on his website and in the Sunday Times, has come in for flak from various Hindu bodies, who have called it “flagrant disrespect and denigration of our glorious Hindu faith”.
On Monday, the South African Hindu Maha Sabha together with the South African Hindu Dharma Sabha lodged official complaints against the cartoon with the Sunday Times, demanding an apology from both cartoonist and editor.
President for the Hindu Dharma Sabha, Ram Maharaj, also lodged complaints with the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, as well as the Press Ombudsman and has asked that, with an apology, Hindus be given the guarantee that no other Hindu deity or symbol be used in this way in the future.
Shapiro said he had seen some of the comments made by the Hindu community and disagreed that he showed Ganesha in a bad light.
“Using the icon is in fact not an attack on that icon. In this case I am not attacking Hinduism and I am not attacking Lord Ganesha. I feel that as we are a secular society living in a secular democracy... this was a fitting metaphor for the way that the cricket board of India got the South African cricket board to sideline Haroon Lorgat”.
He said in conceptualising the cartoon he had done research and discovered that Lord Ganesha was revered as being a remover of obstacles.
“I have been criticised for showing Lord Ganesha in the opposite way that they (followers) would like to see him. I saw it in a very different way. I know it won’t cut it with his followers but I saw it as a remover of obstacles and the removal of Haroon Lorgat in the path of the Indian Cricket Board,” he said.
Phylicia Oppelt, editor of the Sunday Times said in a statement on Tuesday that it was unfortunate that so many Hindus had interpreted it as an attack on their deity.
She said the cartoon made no comment on Hinduism or on Ganesha, but rather on the issue of CSA’s decision to sacrifice Lorgat to secure a lucrative Indian tour to South Africa later this year.
“The cartoon suggested that CSA behaved as supplicants to the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Ganesha was depicted in the cartoon as a symbol of the BCCI and was chosen because of the deity’s strong association with India,” Oppelt said.
“The fact that Ganesha’s headgear was labelled BCCI, Indian Cricket, and he was holding a cricket bat and money, underscores the meaning the cartoonist sought to portray,” Oppelt said.
“To read the cartoon as an expression of disrespect to Hinduism is to misconstrue the point. Sunday Times has the utmost respect for Hinduism and the contribution its practitioners have made to South Africa and the world. We do not, however, believe the use of Hindu iconography... amounts to disrespect,” she said.