Cartoons for a cause: This artist blends humour with messages about the environment and peace
In this thought-provoking photo essay from the Indian Cartoon Gallery, we showcase a range of insightful messages along with artist insights on creativity.
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 725 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Even during this festive season, humanity faces challenges of war and climate change. Mobilisation towards peace and environmental sustainability are some of the themes on display this month at the Indian Cartoon Gallery in Bengaluru.
The gallery was founded by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, and is hosting the exhibition titled TreeToons by Chiluveru Mrityunjay. It portrays the importance of trees for all life on our planet, drawing upon research that shows global warming is caused by factors like the destruction of forests.
Mrityunjay—a cartoonist at the Namaste Telangana daily of Hyderabad—urges citizens to become more aware about the environment and plant more trees. He has recently published the book Haritha Haasam, a collection of 200 cartoons about trees.
Over 80 of these cartoons are on display at the gallery. A selection of these is showcased in this photo essay (see our earlier photo essays on the gallery’s exhibitions from 2015 onwards).
Mrityunjay is an award-winning cartoonist and social activist. His cartoons have addressed issues like politics, corruption, poverty, and environmental destruction.
This TreeToons series was inspired by Rajya Sabha MP Joginapally Santosh Kumar’s Green India Challenge. The exhibition was inaugurated by visual artist and art historian Suresh Jayaram, ‘Savvy Mrs. India Photogenic 2019’ Kumbham Renuka, and Green India co-founder Raghavendra Yadav.
Jayaram commended Mrityunjay for the thoughtfulness of his work, and urged that the cartoons also be printed on T-shirts and handbags to create more awareness among people. Kumbham described the Haritha Haasam collection as ‘Haritha Awesome,’ while Yadav affirmed commitment to present the cartoons to future generations.
Drawing the tree cartoons was a very different experience from his other themes, Mrityunjay tells YourStory. “I felt that the Indian ink I used was water, and the pencils were plants that sprouted cartoon leaves,” he recalls.
He also describes his creative process while cartooning. “Reading is the main source to get ideas. The cartooning profession demands that a cartoonist should read. The more we read, the more great ideas we will get,” he explains.
Sometimes, the things cartoonists hear or see spark off ideas spontaneously. “It happens within a fraction of a second,” Mrityunjay says. Whenever he gets ideas, he translates them into cartoons.
He grew up in a small village, Bhoodan Pochampally, about 40 kms from Hyderabad and began drawing cartoons at the age of 20, inspired by his father, the late Chiluveru Ramalingam.
“He was a well-known Ikkat artist who used to weave portraits of national leaders in cloth, and even weave a saree that could fit into a matchbox,” Mrityunjay recalls.
“In my childhood days, my mother used to cook with firewood, so the soot covered the kitchen wall. I used to draw on this blackened kitchen wall. In such ways, both my parents influenced and inspired me,” he adds.
His aim is to create awareness among the public about the importance of tree plantation. “I have used the themes of Don't cut trees and Trees have emotions in my exhibition,” Mrityunjay says.
He has also conducted cartooning workshops in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, and Kovalam. His next exhibitions will be in Delhi and Hyderabad.
Mrityunjay is pleased with the feedback on his cartoons and books. “The TreeToons coffee-table book was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Telangana, K Chandrashekar Rao,” he proudly says.
He is also working on his next books. “For the Namaste Telangana Sunday supplement, I have written almost 80 articles about world cartoonists and caricaturists. I want to publish a book with these articles,” Mrityunjay says.
“I would also like to come up with a book about digital kids. It is about how children are addicted to technology these days. I have drawn over a hundred cartoons on this subject,” he says.
VG Narendra, the gallery’s manager and curator, is also the managing trustee of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists. “We have received very good feedback from the exhibition,” he says. Mrityunjay’s book of cartoons is also available on display and sale at the gallery.
“The cartoons have inspired gallery visitors of all ages, including children. Most of the cartoons do not require captions, and can have an impact on viewers around the world,” Narendra observes.
“Visiting the gallery, viewing the cartoons, and increasing one’s awareness is the first important step. Next, the audience must themselves commit to causes of peace and environmental sustainability and show concrete action,” Narendra signs off.
Now what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and showcase the breadth of your creative side?
(All photographs of cartoons were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the gallery.)