Cartoon A Factor Of Nigeria’s Social History

Project and Seminar Material for Fine Arts

Cartoon A Factor Of Nigeria’s Social History


In recent years, the cartoon genre has gained considerable research interest,from all disciplines. Perhaps one of the sternest yet satirical forms of communicating in modern times is cartoon. The term cartoon refers first to metaphorical codification, and second to a satirical or humorous genre through which an artist subtly informs, educates and entertains his viewers. Whereas before the imposition of colonial rule in Africa, traditional African societies possessed their peculiar means of criticizing, satirizing and depicting the socio-economic and political phenomena through songs, poems and drama. Despite the introduction of printing press in 1846 and newspapers in 1859 in Nigeria, the use of cartoon as a means of portraying social realism did not gain currency until 1930s when the West African Pilot newspaper blazed the trail. Since then, cartoon has become pungent instrument of communication and illustration in Nigeria. This paper aims at illustrating the use of cartoon as a factor of Nigeria’s social history. This study will analyze selected cartoons from some cartoonists published in national dailies in Nigeria over the years.

Chapter One


Doubtless, cartooning as an art form and sociocultural expression remains a valid means of collating a people’s life experiences, as well as engineering for them an acceptable social mode through constructive criticisms and applause. Yet, this subject has suffered undue neglect among social scientists and other scholars. This shortcoming is even more apparent in Nigeria where cartoons are granted, at best, no more than a grudging appreciation and, at worst, indifference.

Pictorial form of communication can be said to have existed as long as man himself. In Africa, proof of drawings, paintings and engravings- rock art which is precursor of the cartoon- is available in a variety of sources and oddly enough was discovered earlier than the European ones. Dating these has been rather difficult. Man being perhaps the highest social creature is known to devise clear means and processes of organizing and controlling its teeming populace wherever they commune for development.

Cartoon a visual image, known to be a medium of communication- conveying message quickly and clearly- is one critical component of the development of political processes. Of the various visual forms and illustration genres in modern times, the cartoon is perhaps one of the most usual. It is said to be a visual metaphor or metaphorical codification through which an artist (a functional member of the polity and keen societal gauge trained in close observation), informs, educates or entertains his viewers. Furthermore, it has been classified as a form of ‘cool media’ Nelson argues that cartoon is a screaming medium that cannot be denied attention. The pedagogical function of the cartoon has proven a valuable instrument and avenue to educate the readers in any publication where it appears. Cartoons are sometimes satirical and humorous in subject and inevitably elicit readers’ participation.

Some scholars see cartoon as an important medium for the formation of public opinion on salient social issues(Agberia, 1993;Adekambi, 1997;Everette,1974;Vinson1967 )The social history of the country has been elusive given the political culture of the country.

This study aims to lookat the visual power of cartoons as a factor of influence on Nigerian social history as well as in reflecting social and political issues in the society asNigerian social history revolves majorly around the political life.

In Nigeria, the use of cartoon in the media discourse was established as a vital force within the political struggle to liberate Nigeria from British colonization.

Cartoons unveil serious ideas through the use of satire, humor, contrast, surprise and most importantly the use of caricature. In Nigeria, this aim has been achieved as the use of cartoons in Nigerian newspapers has been a means of presenting the social ills and many abnormalities present in the society. Humor in cartoons is used as an instrument to highlight solely current political situation and social issues in society. Thus, humor is seen a tool capable of exposing social and political absurdities of a moment (Kulkarni 2004). Moreover, it is a weapon used to ridicule humanity specifically political leaders in order to address their follies and irrational behaviors for the betterment of society. Thus, humor constitutes a significant element of the cartoon genre within the realm of wider political discourse. Taking into account its communicative effect, humor as described by Robinson (1981) is psychologically pleasurable. It is also, what keeps us amused in stressful moment. On the other side, there is nothing that tyrants and rascals fear more than satire and ridicule, and the graphic form of humor has always proved to be uniquely satirical and painful. Cartoon is commonly regarded as a joke, but in reality it transcends beyond that, for it is an effective device used in political, socio or economic settings to display its message in a realistic and attractive way.

Basically humor is fundamentally perceived as a communicative activity (Lynch 2002). It has also been described as a universal human and social phenomenon, present in both tribal and industrialized societies (Apte 1985). In reality, humor is an essential feature not only in cartoons, but also in all social life. More specifically, humor is depicted in cartoons at varying degrees, some cartoons elicit smile from the audience without being completely funny, while others are so absurd to the extent that they set people laughing. Similarly, the inherent nature of political cartoons can be understood through its framework that incorporates humor as a vehicle of caricaturing.

Considering its communicative feature, the cartoon humor is usually shared between interactants and portrays social, psychological, cognitive processes, cultural norms and value judgment. In addition, it is further described as a kind of play that relieves people from intensities of stressed life (Lewis P. 1989). This feature of humor is apparently found in political cartoons which through its graphic depictions ridicule political leaders and their policies deemed by cartoonists as bad or inappropriate. These depictions are aimed at correcting faulty behaviors and enforcing social norms. Also, the satirical attacks provide a sort of relief to people from the stress of oppressions by the tyrants.

1.1 Statement of Problem

Nigerian social history majorly revolves around our political life; the researcher observed that the social history of the country could not be complete without discussing the political life of the nation and the political life going way down into history from the colonial era to the time of independence.

It was also noted that the previous research has not been carried out on the topic so as to point out the necessity of its influence on our daily and national life which emanates the effects of its use on our political, social, and economic aspect of the Nigerian society.

Since the advent of the print media in Nigeria, the newspaper has been the most active way for passing information. Most cartoons that appear in the daily newspapers end up being political instruments than being social critics or economic tool.

People no longer react to the information cartoons portrays any longer, most government official are neglecting the power of cartoon in the society not knowing that cartoon can be able to bring about change in national development.

Most cartoons that appear in this papers are more comic than social and therefore addressed in a humorous than in a persuasive manner most cartoonist are not representing cartoon in a way to influence our social life rather they are misinterpreted to motivate the wrong perception of reasoning more or most especially towards government and its policies.

1.2 Objectives

The research aims to document and articulate cartoon as a tool of influence on Nigeria’s social history, pointing out to the important role that cartoon plays out in our everyday lives, as well as the impacts of these genre of communication has influence on our political life positively over the years, in other to review if the subject matter has been able to achieve an enviable standard in national development and also in reconciling cartoon perception and readership for a better and positive perception in the future.

This genre of communication will be viewed under its involvement in the political, and socio-economic, situation in Nigeria.

1.3 Scope of Study

This research concentrates on how cartoon can be a factor of influence on Nigeria’s social history and briefly how it brought about change in Nigeria’s history so far.

1.4 Limitations

The research experienced some stumbling blocks which threatened to hamper its progress.

  1. Cost of gathering relevant documentation was difficult as the research topic is new.
  2. Financial instability and accommodation was a bigger challenge.
  3. Locating most cartoonists was difficult especially that of those who now live outside the country.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The significance of this study is to portray ways in which cartoon has influenced our social and political history so far, more so to change the general perception of individuals so as to see cartoon as a strong and positive tool to influence our social life and so too to see the good such change can incur our a nation’s development through their voluntary action for change.

It will also aid written documentation and literature in the fine and applied arts in Nigeria.

1.6 Research Methodology

The research method applied to this study includes library research methods and also oral sources such as oral interviews with some cartoonist from various newspaper dailies, oral interview with newspaper readers, oral interviews with children between the ages 10 to 18 years old.

The research heavily relied on secondary and primary sources, secondary sources are collected from materials such as magazines, books, journals, and newspapers majorly.

Some past undergraduate projects has also served as good source of information.

Published and unpublished literary materials as well as gathering information from newspaper articles, internet, libraries and libraries of media houses were very effective.

1.7 Definition of Terms


Pictorial representation of events or ideas, optionally accompanied by verbal cues, for the purpose of eliciting laughter.

Comic Strip:

A group of cartoons in narrative sequence

Editorial / Political Cartoons:

Cartoons published either in editorial or public opinion pages of a newspaper of a Political nature.


One-panel cartoon drawing used to mock advert of some Controversial products occasionally used to comment on social Issues.

Social History:

The study of past events as it connected with the society and the way it is organized.


An artist or person that draws cartoon.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1 Summary

History records enough justification for cartoon as a powerful tool for socio-political reconstruction. Evidences of this are explored in chapter one of this study. In a third world country like Nigeria, the reconstruction of socio political realities has always been viewed as the topmost priority. As such, it will amount to gross oversight for the media to ignore cartoon while carrying out its socio-political roles. Cartoons are of different types. Each of the types has its own peculiar strength and purpose.

Finally, this study discovered that the subject content of most of the cartoons was on social issues followed by politics with the aid of the press media

5.2 Conclusion

It is no doubt that the cynic can easily doubt the relevance of cartoons for socio-political reconstruction because it is largely designed to amuse.

However underlying the amusement content of a cartoon is a strong message condensed with meanings capable of influencing one’s life, if only the perception would be viewed differently. It is wrong therefore to think that cartoons has got nothing to do with socio-political and even economic reconstruction.

If a cartoons strip in faraway Denmark can cause civil unrest in many nations of the world including Nigeria in 2007, it would amount to gross is miscalculation for anybody to underestimate the power of cartoon. That singular experience alone clearly shows that cartoon is capable of reshaping the destiny of human society positively or negatively depending on the motives of the cartoon vis-à-vis the audience perception of the cartoon.

This study has earlier discussed how cartoon can shape, ventilate and clarify public opinion. By doing this, it sets agenda.

Public opinion serves well as essential pedigree of political development and if cartoon could and do actually contribute to propagate a climate of healthy opinion in public sphere; it means that cartoon helps to improve a nation’s political system and diplomacy. And with the growing realization of the importance of public opinion and steady improvement in the communication methods in the world, Cartoon by its nature informs. Of truth, information and communication are at the root of national development. It is unarguable therefore, contributes to socio-political growth by empowering the audience with information. The beauty and uniqueness of the informational function of carton lies in its acidity to present the information in a very terse, witty, simple and pungent manner that aids the audience to fathom the striking, vivid and condensed meaning right from the surface.

Furthermore, certain images in cartoons help to enforce socio-cultural and political values; modify some of such values that need modification; and attack some that are considered to be barbaric, updated and inimical to the overall socio-political and cultural development of the audience members. The fact that cartoon helps in the development of individual ingenuity should also not be neglected. Cartoons, we know, do not emerge from the moon. It takes human to conceptualize imaginative and creative ideas that embellish cartoons. In tinkering out creative ideas, therefore, cartoonists further develop their creative and imaginative inertia. This, no doubt leads to healthy individuals, which by extension, translates to national development. With the above point, any sound ought to be convinced that cartooning is a serious business that should be given a major attention by everyone. The state of the art in Nigeria is therefore very worrisome and ought to be treated as a matter of urgency.

5.3 Recommendations

Research is not only done for academic purposes. One of the key essences of research is to understand social and physical phenomena with a view to proffering solution where they exist. Consequently, an attempt has been made here to offer some practical recommendations informed by the realities which this research has examined.

  1. Cartoonists should be encouraged to be more pungent, imaginative and creative in their cartoon business bearing in mind that their drawings help a great deal in the overall political and diplomatic development of nations.
  2. Workshop should from time to time be organized for the Nigeria cartoonists and those who have interest in learning the art. Such a workshop should be a forum for sharing ideas among the cartoonists and also for training those who wish to take up the art. With this, the art of cartooning in Nigeria will develop on a faster pace.
  3. Much research has not been carried out in the area of cartooning in Nigeria. If nothing is done about this, the growth of cartooning in Nigeria will keep suffering as people will always find it very difficult to appreciate cartoon and the much it has to offer.
  4. Media scholars should therefore pick up this task of carrying out more research in this area. Cartoon effect on the public, the extent at which people expose themselves to cartoon among other areas need urgent attention.
  5. The course content of Graphics Communication is boarded with a view to giving more emphasis on the art of cartooning and placement.
  6. We also want to see the association of cartoonist in Nigeria
  7. (CAN). This is to ensure that an arrow-hand is formed for an ironclad attack on the problems confronting them in the practice of the trade. Let the cartoonist help to deconstruct the high level of cynicism in Nigeria and declare an outright war against bad political leadership and corruption.

The cartoonist, no doubt, has the right weapon that can do the magic.

Finally, the researcher strongly solicit that more research should be carried out on the topic.

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