Zapiro is the nom de plume of South African political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, whose work appears in numerous South African publications and has been exhibited internationally on many occasions.

Early life

Born in 1958 to Gershon and Gaby Shapiro, he studied architecture at the University of Cape Town but found it unsatisfying and moved to the art campus, Michaelis. Shortly after this he was conscripted into the army for two years, where he refused to carry arms. In 1983 he became active in the newly-formed anti-Apartheid movement, the United Democratic Front and as a result was arrested under the Illegal Gatherings Act and, subsequently, monitored by military intelligence. Zapiro was an important participant in South Africa's End Conscription Campaign, designing its logo. After his military service he applied for and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study cartooning in New York for two years.

The name Zapiro was derived from the nickname of a fellow pupil at Rondebosch Boys' High School, Martin Szapiro, whose friends called him Zap. After Martin's death in a mountaineering accident, Zapiro chose this name. The first Zapiro character was a character named Preppy, whose main characteristic was his "kuif" (fringe), and who commented on issues that went on around school.


Zapiro's work appears daily on the website of South African independent news publication, Mail & Guardian and weekly on the site of the Sunday Times.

Zapiro has published twelve cartoon collections:
*The Madiba Years (1996)
*The Hole Truth (1997)
*End of Part One (1998)
*Call Mr Delivery (1999)
*The Devil Made Me Do It! (2000)
*The ANC Went in 4x4 (2001)
*Bushwhacked (2002)
*Dr Do-Little and the African Potato (2003)
*Long Walk to Free Time (2004)
*Is There a Spin Doctor in the House? (2005)
*Da Zuma Code (2006)
*Take Two Veg and Call Me in the Morning (2007)

Awards and exhibitions

In 2001 he became the first cartoonist to win a category prize in the CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards. In 2003 and 2004 he won the Mondi Newspaper Award for Graphic Journalism.

In 2004 the University of Transkei made him an Honorary Doctor of Literature.

In 2005 Shapiro won the Principal Prince Claus Award.

He has held solo cartoon exhibitions in New York, London and Frankfurt and many in South Africa. Has also exhibited in numerous group shows locally and internationally.

He has been an invited participant in cartoon events in Cameroon, Botswana, Australia, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy. In 2003 he was Africa's only representative amongst cartoonists invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and he attended the forum again in 2004 and 2005.

In 2007, he received the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award at the annual Cartoonists Rights Network International dinner, capping the 50th Anniversary Convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.


In 2003, Zapiro made headlines when members of the Faith and Politics Institute, an American organisation, lodged complaints against three of the cartoons at an exhibition for visiting American congressional representatives as well as members of the institute. The cartoons in question depicted former American president Bill Clinton and US policies of "trade and not aid", and President George W. Bush with a raised middle finger in a comment on American unilateralism and Bush's stance on the World Summit on Sustainable Development. [cite news
title=Zapiro censored
publisher=Mail&Guardian online

In 2006, former Deputy President of South Africa Jacob Zuma furthered his claim of being "tried by the media" and has threatened to bring defamation action against various elements of the press for remarks that he alleges are defamatory. Approximately R15 million of the R63 million rand demanded by his legal representatives are in connection with Zapiro cartoons.

In 2008, Zapiro met with further animosity, this time from the South African ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC) over a cartoon that appeared in the Sunday Times on the 7th of September, 2008. The cartoon depicts a scene where the ANC president's (Jacob Zuma) staunchest supporters (ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, secretary general of the ANC - Gwede Mantashe, SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande and Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi) are holding down Lady Justice, while Jacob Zuma is in a state of undress getting ready to "rape" Lady Justice. [cite news
publisher=Sunday Times
] Mantashe, who is shown in the cartoon with a speech bubble containing "Go for it, boss", labelled the cartoon "racist", while ANC spokesperson Jesse Duarte said the cartoon is "vile, crude and disgusting". Zapiro refuses to apologise for the cartoon. The African National Congress, the South African Communist Party and the ANC Youth League released the joint statement [cite web
title=ANC, SACP and Youth league statement on the Sunday Times
] as a formal response to The Sunday Times (South Africa), while the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) issued a separate press statement [cite web
title=COSATU condemns Zapiro cartoon
] .


External links

* [ Zapiro's official website]
* [ M&G Zapiro Archive]
* [ Zapiro on the Sunday Times website] .
* [ Unofficial Zapiro meta-archive]
* [ Zapiro profile at]
* [ Zapiro Unofficially]
* [ IOL report]
* [ Zapiro cartoon leaves ANC fuming]

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