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An analysis of satirical cartoons during the xenophobic violence in South Africa.

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ABSTRACT In the months of May 2008 and February 2015, South Africa was plagued with xenophobic attacks that affected migrants from African countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique (Steenkamp, 2009: 441). These xenophobic attacks quickly became an ethnic, racial, economic and structural issue. Artists in South Africa reacted through their “weapon” of choice - Art. Many satirical cartoons being published which helped highlight the above issues. For this research, I have analysed ten South African editorial cartoons (which are created by South African artists) that focused on xenophobia in 2008 and 2015. These cartoons were sourced from local and national South African newspapers. I have chosen three theoretical lenses to analyse how South African satirical cartoonists portrayed the xenophobic violence in South Africa. The first lens used was Xenophobia theory; the second lens was Elements of Cartooning and the third lens was Bakhtin’s theory of the Carnivalesque. The final analysis integrated all three lenses which provided a deeper analysis. The research was aimed at investigating how South African cartoonists dealt with the xenophobic outbreaks in 2008 and 2015. The study concluded that cartoonist portrayed the xenophobic violence in South Africa as being a catastrophic and senseless occurrence. Through the use of satire, cartoonists helped the reader to ascertain valuable information such as the causes and main contributors of xenophobia in South Africa as well as who were the main targets and highlighted the consequences of the attacks. The application of Bakhtins Carnivalesque to the analysis of the cartoons emphasised how the cartoonist can be likened to the Jester of the medieval carnival, as they mock and debunk the hierarchical structures that exist. The cartoonist is thus revealed as a powerful figure who holds the ability to effect change through cartooning.


Master of Arts. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2018.