Stereotyping Māori in cartoons must stop, says cartoonist

Cartoons should stop portraying Māori in a negative light says award-winning cartoonist Malcolm Evans.

The Auckland artist says some cartoonists and publishers continue to perpetuate negative Māori stereotypes and often underestimate the power they wield.

“The problem with cartooning is that it’s essentially a negative craft,” he told Native Affairs on Māori Television.

“Nothing that perpetuates a stereotype is acceptable because stereotype by definition is lazy.

It speaks to the greater reality perhaps that racism is alive and well and that’s what we need to address.  Not just cartoonists but racism as well.”

The Qantas 2001 Cartoonist of the Year has sketched thousands of political images over his career that spans six decades. Very few focused on Māori issues, and hardly any were published.

He was sacked in 2003 by the NZ Herald for refusing to stop drawing cartoons criticising the Israel parliament’s treatment of Palestinian people.

His work is now only published by a regional newspaper.

“I’ve always regarded the political cartoon as a very powerful medium. I think at times it’s ill-served by those who have the opportunity to use it.”

“Because Māori are at the socio-economic end of the spectrum you’re essentially obliged to present them in a way that echoes that reality. That’s a negative in my view.”

A new book authored by historian Paul Diamond called Savaged to Suit: Māori cartooning in New Zealand,  canvasses the prevailing attitudes and feelings about race and ethnicity through cartooning during the 1930s to the 1990s.

“You could argue that the cartoons are a part of this whole climate of how people are made to feel about themselves,” says Diamond.