A Critical Study of Emilia Onuegbu’s Cartoons

John Otu

Federal College of Education, Zaria, Nigeria

Volume 6, Number 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF


As the world continue to improve its civility to prove that both genders have equal capacity to display skill in various acts, a case in time fails at this. The Punch newspaper like any other has the knack for publishing strips that depict the style of each cartoonist. This style distinguishes each other from the other making it possible to tell the cartoonist apart from the other. This article reveals an act of plagiarism between a male and a female cartoonist that plagiarised, and covertly allowed other male colleagues to make strips with her name on it despite an evident inability in the particular female cartoonist to draw cartoons.

 Keywords: depiction, cartooning, originality


The cartooning scholarly field in Nigeria continues to grow with a narrow perspective brought to bear on cartoons. This narrow perspective is mostly based on political cartooning as though other issues cannot be raised effectively. The other perspectives such as anthropomorphic, gender, linguistic studies among others have saliently begun to be studied. Other perspectives include stylistic traditions practiced by various Nigerian newspapers extensively studied by Teju Olaniyan while other scholars like Oyin Medubi and Modupe Alimi focus on linguistics. It is worthy to note that most studies exclude the works of female cartoonists as though they did not practice the art form in the over seventy years of cartooning in Nigeria. Hart (1998) avers that

Man has been making funny drawings since the beginning of time. Cave paintings are filled with lion-rips-hunter-to-shred gags, which, frankly, were a bit over the top but at least they had a premise. To learn about humor, a good question to ask is, what makes a drawing funny? An even better one is what techniques can I use to make my drawings funnier? Whatever happened to that lady who sang “I will survive”? is perhaps, the question of all…

            The two questions asked above definitely sets the tone for being able to make a funny cartoon albeit the genre Onuegbu made her strips in. He asserts that to practice cartooning, the would-be practitioner must study through a thoughtful and writing process that will characterise the planning of the strip the cartoonist intends to create. Perhaps, one of the down-sides of cartooning in Nigeria is the fact that it is not taught at any of the tiers of the nation’s educational system. In an interview with Akila Jibrin on the 12th of March 2013 via text message, he holds that “Drawing is the basic, then ability to exaggerate in an amusing way is the key (amusing drawings alone can pass the intended message). In addition to (Amusing) Drawing is dialogue (constructive and brief) which helps your readers to understand the message more clearer.” However, the Fine Arts courses coupled with comic books imports continue to be the ‘teaching-learning’ materials relied upon by many, if not all that practice the art form, with or without a fine Arts background especially at the secondary and tertiary school levels. This article focuses on a female cartoonist that practiced the art form and used just a template to express various thoughts on children’s witty way of life.

            Adejuwon and Alimi (2011: 66) add that “Planning of the cartoon frame is given a strong character of order, balance…in weight distribution within the image area. This is attributable to the prominence given by the British Art School-influenced artists of the post-colonial era to order and placement of design elements within art compositions”. This is borne out of the dedication informed by the acculturation that has made cartooning to find a foot-hold in the British society. In comparison to Nigeria, Medubi (2009: 211) avers that

From the times of Lasekan to the today, cartooning has been appeared to be the hobby of the so-called cartoonists who have remained essentially painters, sculptors, graphic artists and so on, professions for which they are primarily trained. Not a single cartoonist has any formal training in cartooning, and as stated earlier, no art institution offers cartooning as a course. Thus, cartooning continues to be a by-product of artistic engagement and talents.

This might not be far from why it is difficult for the male artists to teach others what they do not have. It is therefore, on this premise important for cartoonists to hold workshops with the aid of foreign cartooning schools to teach cartooning in Nigeria so as to further improve on the skill.

Objective of the study

The objective of the study is to reveal the unstated retrogression her cartooning practice was subjected to, without proper assistance and editorial supervision.


The purposive research method is adopted for the study since the subject is the only female that practiced the art form under a mannerism condoned when she worked in the Punch newspaper. The qualitative and descriptive research methods are also relied on to discuss her works as a pointer to the competence expected in the cartooning art form. The works presented in the study are randomly selected to fit the purpose of the study so as to reveal the cartooning experience she had in the Punch newspaper. An interview scheduled was used to find out why she used a template in all her works, and why there are works of her colleagues that look similar in their stylistic depiction with her works.

An archaeological perspective is relied on this study in the study since Carpenter (2012: 169) holds that “Archaeology’s emphasis on artifacts, especially its use of reverse engineering of the construction of artifacts to understand creative practices and social relations, has implications for the way in which cultural anthropologist address and theorise cultural production.” This is aimed at learning out the secrecy that characterise the unwillingness of cartoonists to explain the underlying inspiration behind their works.

Data and narrative

Emilia Onuegbu studied Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. She had started as an Illustrator with Letramed; a publishing company that also make comics, in Lagos while she was a final year student. She later moved to the Punch newspaper as a freelance cartoonist where she continued throughout her service year (NYSC). In being able to understand an artist’s works it is important to speak with the artist about the inspiration and meaning of the work(s). The chance of getting a favourable response is usually very difficult when it comes to the field of cartooning…Full Text PDF