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.
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