Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro has published a new book, Vuvuzela Nation, containing sport-related cartoons, mostly in black and white.
Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro has published a new book, Vuvuzela Nation, containing sport-related cartoons, mostly in black and white.

by Zapiro with text by Mike Wills (Jacana).

Everybody can probably remember a few classic Zapiro cartoons. He’s been in the game long enough and is recognised as the best when it comes to commenting on the foibles of South African society through his acerbic yet witty pen.

He’s published 17 cartoon annuals with various themes, as well as a tome called The Madiba Files. His latest book, Vuvuzela Nation, is sure to bring back good and bad memories of sporting feats and disasters spanning the period from 1995 to this year.

The publication contains more than 250 of Zapiro’s sport-related cartoons, most in black and white.

One of the handful in colour, though, will have stuck in many minds. Cast your mind back to 1997 and the great anticipation ahead of the naming of the 2004 Olympic Games host city. There had been much squabbling and controversy in the years of Cape Town’s bid, but the disappointment after a certain Greek city had won the right to host the Games will be forever remembered by the barb of the dejected local punter on a deserted Grand Parade, his poster dragging on the ground, uttering the profane (no, not profound) line: “Athens se ma se @*#&!!”

Writers of words as opposed to drawers of cartoons win praise for their ability to create believable characters and plots, and portray emotions realistically.

Zapiro, with “the Athens insult”, surely accomplished more than the thousand words a picture is supposed to be able to paint.

Because of the longish period spanned by Vuvuzela Nation, the two Rugby World Cup wins are covered, as are the Olympic Games triumphs, the Afcon victory at home in 1996 and the Proteas’ “438” one-day international miracle success against Australia in 2006.

Zapiro (real name Jonathan Shapiro) writes that he celebrates the emotional highs of the country’s sporting moments of exultation. A drawing I had not seen before bears no caption. Done last year, it is of a swimmer whose cap bears the name “Le Clos”, his arms fully extended. He is propelled by butterfly wings in the colours of the national flag. Take that, Michael Phelps! That drawing causes goosebumps.

The flip side of the podium moments lies in the corrupt and inept deeds of players and administrators. Hansie Cronje and Gerald Majola from cricket are obvious inclusions, as is rugby’s Louis Luyt, cycling’s Lance Armstrong and Fifa’s Sepp Blatter. Politics and sport are Siamese twins, and this theme is hardly ever out of the news, providing ample material for Zapiro.

Other themes which have become topical again in the past few weeks have also received the treatment from this celebrated cartoonist. Drugs in sport, Fifa’s allocation of World Cup hosting rights and the fall of Oscar Pistorius – it’s all there in Vuvuzela Nation.

Then there are those drawings which are just downright funny. Like former Bafana coach Joel Santana feigning poor knowledge of English, until his R1.5 million-a-month contract is threatened. And the Tour de France stage from Anabolique to Eau Verdose (that one’s just punny).

Context for the cartoons is provided by journalist Mike Wills, and Vuvuzela Nation, with its layers of comedy, irony and insightful commentary in every drawing is certainly a book that will be much dipped into.

Former Bok coach Peter de Villiers was a cartoonist’s dream while he was centre-stage.

Perhaps he summed up Zapiro’s ability to get to the nub of sporting issues perfectly thus (in a line from a speech bubble in a cartoon in the book): “I could sue the media for definition of character.”

* Doman is sports editor of the Cape Argus.