It’s not surprising that China lacks a forum for cutting political cartoons, but one artist is challenging the Party’s dominance with pigs and ducks. Crazy Crab’s satirical cartoons on China, which he posts on his site Hexie farm, show the absurd nature of China’s one-party dictatorship and its efforts to silence discussion. He is probably best known for his work on the Chen Guangcheng dark glasses portrait campaign, and his series on China Digital Times.
Tom: How would you describe yourself and your work?
Crazy Crab: I’m an anonymous cartoonist who doesn’t know how to tell a joke.
I started to draw Hexie Farm in late 2009. It’s a series of political cartoons depicting a ‘great, glorious and correct’ era of ‘harmony’.
Were you always interested in politics or was there an event that changed how you view things?
No, I don’t like politics, especially the politics in China. I have been trying to evade it for a long time. I was only an engineer before I started to draw.
There were two events in late 2009 that made me start drawing political cartoons: One was Feng Zhenghu being refused entry to China, the other was the self-immolation of Tang Fuzhen. At that time, I could not find a Chinese cartoon relating to those two events. So I thought maybe I could try it. So I did it.
What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
There are lots of cartoonists in China. However, real political satires are still rare. No cartoonist dares to challenge the One-Party dictatorship and question the political system. I hope my cartoons could make a change.
Do you have a favorite cartoon and can you describe what was the motivation behind its creation?
I like some simple cartoons, for example, this cartoon I drew last year.
It predicted that some events would happen in the future. And it did happen, for instance the recent removal of Bo Xilai and the Wang Lijun incident.
The other one, is simply a truth that most people haven’t noticed yet.
For months you dedicated cartoons to the plight of Chen Guangcheng, and headed up the dark glasses campaign to raise awareness and show support. How did you feel when you heard that Chen had escaped from Linyi?
I just couldn’t believe that Chen Guangcheng escaped at that moment. Yes, I couldn’t help but burst into tears like a child when I found it was true.
Now that Chen is in the US, what cause will you shine your spotlight on next?
I don’t know. Chen is free now, however there are still many other people similar to him, for instance Feng Zhenghu and Liu Xia. They are also under illegal house arrest without any reason. Due to censorship, lots of similar stories, especially if they are common people, can’t even be known.
I don’t know what the next one will be. I hope it will be a funny one. At present, I’m just working on cartooning.
Activists and Dissidents are often labeled as anti-China and are accused of being funded by nefarious foreign forces. Are you anti-China? Do you receive funding from the US state department?
I’m anti-dictatorship, is it anti-China? I know some activists and dissidents who clearly say that they are not against the government, but just want to seek justice or defend their property.
No, I don’t have any funding. But I would like to try. Is there any funding I can apply for? (I’m not joking :))
When you first started posting your comics online, were you worried about the repercussions? Was there a specific one that made you more nervous than others to put up?
Yes, I worried a lot even before I started. My first question was: “Am I crazy enough to draw such political satire for nothing but a nightmare?” This question always bothers me. I don’t have an answer yet.
There are lots of cartoons that make me nervous (It’s unfair, because some of them make the audience laugh loudly). For example, some cartoons about Chairman Mao. But the cartoons that caused me the most sleepless nights are eight cartoons about Tibet. It might be the first Chinese cartoons, by a Han person, standing up for Tibet’s right to be free from religious repression.
Would you describe your battles with censorship and the absurd system as work or play?
It’s not play. Nobody wants to play with the security police. It’s not funny. It’s not a job either. Although I really want to take cartooning as a serious work, it’s very hard to find a place to publish these cartoons. There are only a handful media outlets that can publish this kind of cartoons. Some use them without paying and they take this for granted.
To me, I’m drawing these cartoons just because I want to see how far I can go with my pen.
What do you hope for China?
I hope China will be a country where people have rights to vote, a country where everyone can speak out without fear, and a country where political cartoonists can make a better living by criticizing everything 🙂
Special Offer: For the very first time Crazy Crab is making his art available for sale! If you are interested in buying signed prints of his cutting cartoons you can contact him on Twitter at @hexiefarm, or on Google+ at 蟹农场 (you can choose from anything featured on his site). Prints are usually $25+shipping, but for his first few customers he’s offering a 50% discount. So support a dissident artist and get some pretty great art at the same time.