Reporting and Essays

Kushinagar

By JOE SACCO | 1 January 2012

IN 2010, the American journalist and cartoonist Joe Sacco, unquestionably the world’s foremost practitioner of what he calls “comics journalism”, came to India with an assignment from a French magazine to produce a long-form feature on rural poverty.
It would be difficult to overstate Sacco’s stature in the two worlds he straddles as a cartoonist and a reporter: over the past 20 years, he has pioneered an entirely new form of graphic storytelling, travelling into conflict zones as a journalist and then recreating them as a visual artist, producing a series of stand-alone reports and a handful of books widely regarded as masterpieces: Palestine, a narrative of his journeys and encounters in the Palestinian territories after the first Gulf War; Safe Area Gorazde, about the end of the Bosnian War; and Footnotes in Gaza, on the legacy of two long-forgotten massacres from the early years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sacco turned his attention to India, he says, out of a desire to step back from war and conflict, and to test himself in a country where he had never worked. He decided to focus his attention on Uttar Pradesh, and set out—with the assistance of Piyush Srivastava, a Lucknow-based journalist—to gather the stories of poor Dalit villagers in Kushinagar district, along the border with Bihar.

The resulting comic, which appears in English for the first time in this special issue of The Caravan, puts all of Sacco’s astonishing talents as a journalist and artist on display, plunging the reader into a perceptive, unsentimental and exquisitely rendered account of a tragic reality that we all claim to know but too rarely see with fresh eyes.

Joe Sacco is an American journalist and cartoonist whose books include Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde and Footnotes in Gaza.

IN 2010, the American journalist and cartoonist Joe Sacco, unquestionably the world’s foremost practitioner of what he calls “comics journalism”, came to India with an assignment from a French magazine to produce a long-form feature on rural poverty.
It would be difficult to overstate Sacco’s stature in the two worlds he straddles as a cartoonist and a reporter: over the past 20 years, he has pioneered an entirely new form of graphic storytelling, travelling into conflict zones as a journalist and then recreating them as a visual artist, producing a series of stand-alone reports and a handful of books widely regarded as masterpieces: Palestine, a narrative of his journeys and encounters in the Palestinian territories after the first Gulf War; Safe Area Gorazde, about the end of the Bosnian War; and Footnotes in Gaza, on the legacy of two long-forgotten massacres from the early years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sacco turned his attention to India, he says, out of a desire to step back from war and conflict, and to test himself in a country where he had never worked. He decided to focus his attention on Uttar Pradesh, and set out—with the assistance of Piyush Srivastava, a Lucknow-based journalist—to gather the stories of poor Dalit villagers in Kushinagar district, along the border with Bihar.

The resulting comic, which appears in English for the first time in this special issue of The Caravan, puts all of Sacco’s astonishing talents as a journalist and artist on display, plunging the reader into a perceptive, unsentimental and exquisitely rendered account of a tragic reality that we all claim to know but too rarely see with fresh eyes.

Joe Sacco is an American journalist and cartoonist whose books include Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde and Footnotes in Gaza.

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READER'S COMMENTS [4]

I am appalled by the conditions, in fact feel ashamed of myself and the society. 'Descendants of Vishnu'.. I wonder how God can be called merciful if not humans. Blaming anyone wouldn't bring a solution neither I can suggest one with my pity remarks here, but I feel really really mournful. I know how labors are treated in the city (I read in the coverage that some of them are responsible for sending money to their relative in the village. I feel disgusted about our co-existence with such a great inequality. I feel so sorry. Thank you for covering this. Just heard about blasts in Boston (16 Jan 2013) though I am saddened to hear that news and everybody is gaga about that, how about these people who are living to die everyday.

I cannot believe you've got Joe Sacco to do this piece for you - how brilliant, congratulations! How did you crack it?? I'm buying this issue tomorrow!

This piece made for good reading. The perspective provided by the art accompanying the bare-bones text was, like your introduction put it, unsentimental. Fresh too.

Dear Editior, I am sure where to start. I dont even know if it will be immoral to congradulate you and Joe sacco for this attempt to portray poverty through brilllaint cartoons and reportage. I am sure if calling it a catoon would demean the subject that it deals with. It was an eye opener. The images and the facts are disturbing. Disturbing reality of modern India. It is unfortunate that we still have birth based discrimination in different parts of this country. It is a shame and we are all rascists. If we cannot treat our fellow human beings as equal then I think we can no place on this planet anymore.India ,for all its much spoken about dharma and karma is decadent, selfish and corrupt. What will make a difference to these porr folks? I am immensely saddeded and dejected. Thanks to your attempt at this form of journalism . Keep up your good work and lets make a difference,

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