Zapiro receives France’s top cultural award – the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres

Header image: Branko Brkic and Zapiro, from Zapiro on Twitter

Acclaimed South African cartoonist and satirist Zapiro (Jonathan Shapiro) has received France’s top cultural award.

Zapiro was presented with the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) at a ceremony in Cape Town on 13 November 2019.

The award recognises ‘significant contributions to the enrichment of the arts and literature in France and abroad’.

French Ambassador Aurélien Lechevallier bestowed the award on the cartoonist on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.

The French government acknowledged Zapiro’s continuing ‘fight for freedom of expression, equality and dignity’.

Other South Africans who have won the award include Johnny Clegg (1991), William Kentridge (2013), Gregory Maqoma (2017) and Zanele Muholi (2017).

The Daily Maverick reported on the event:

Zapiro was bestowed the order because he shares ‘the values that define and guide [the French] Republic: the trilogy, equality, liberty and fraternity, resonate perfectly with who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for’, explained Lechevallier.

He added: ‘What is the shape of truth? What is the shape of freedom? What are the shapes of independence, sovereignty, nation-building? What is the shape of Ubuntu? Is it a sculpture? Is it a painting? Is it a photograph? Is it the sight of the people demonstrating and walking down the streets? Is it an architectural structure, a temple with five columns supporting the antique roof and a strong, large gate made of bronze?

‘Everywhere in the world, we are looking for the shape of truth, the shape of liberty, the shape of justice. In Afghanistan, in Mali, in Haiti, in Burundi, in Syria, in Israel, in Palestine, in France, in South Africa, people are looking for the shape of the truth. And from time to time, in the silence of a closed room, in the mystery of an inspired mind, a gifted woman or a gifted man decides that the shape of truth should be actually … a cartoon.’

Watch a video of the presentation:

Categories International Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Awards Jacana Media News Zapiro


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