In recent years, the cartoon genre has gained considerable research interest,from all disciplines. Perhaps one of the sternest yet satirical forms of communicating in modern times is cartoon. The term cartoon refers first to metaphorical codification, and second to a satirical or humorous genre through which an artist subtly informs, educates and entertains his viewers. Whereas before the imposition of colonial rule in Africa, traditional African societies possessed their peculiar means of criticizing, satirizing and depicting the socio-economic and political phenomena through songs, poems and drama. Despite the introduction of printing press in 1846 and newspapers in 1859 in Nigeria, the use of cartoon as a means of portraying social realism did not gain currency until 1930s when the West African Pilot newspaper blazed the trail. Since then, cartoon has become pungent instrument of communication and illustration in Nigeria. This paper aims at illustrating the use of cartoon as a factor of Nigeria’s social history. This study will analyze selected cartoons from some cartoonists published in national dailies in Nigeria over the years.
Doubtless, cartooning as an art form and sociocultural expression remains a valid means of collating a people’s life experiences, as well as engineering for them an acceptable social mode through constructive criticisms and applause. Yet, this subject has suffered undue neglect among social scientists and other scholars. This shortcoming is even more apparent in Nigeria where cartoons are granted, at best, no more than a grudging appreciation and, at worst, indifference.
Pictorial form of communication can be said to have existed as long as man himself. In Africa, proof of drawings, paintings and engravings- rock art which is precursor of the cartoon- is available in a variety of sources and oddly enough was discovered earlier than the European ones. Dating these has been rather difficult. Man being perhaps the highest social creature is known to devise clear means and processes of organizing and controlling its teeming populace wherever they commune for development.
Cartoon a visual image, known to be a medium of communication- conveying message quickly and clearly- is one critical component of the development of political processes. Of the various visual forms and illustration genres in modern times, the cartoon is perhaps one of the most usual. It is said to be a visual metaphor or metaphorical codification through which an artist (a functional member of the polity and keen societal gauge trained in close observation), informs, educates or entertains his viewers. Furthermore, it has been classified as a form of ‘cool media’ Nelson argues that cartoon is a screaming medium that cannot be denied attention.