Naji Al Ali

Naji Al-Ali

Personal Info

Years in active : From 1938 To 1987
Country of resident : United Kingdom
City : London
Gender : Male
Date of birth : 1938
Died: 29/8/1987


In 1959 Naji al-Ali returned to Lebanon, and that year he joined the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), but was expelled four times within one year for lack of party discipline. Between 1960 and 1961, along with comrades from the ANM, he published a handwritten political journal Al-Sarkha (‘the cry’). In 1960, he entered the Lebanon Academy of Arts, but was unable to continue his studies there as he was imprisoned for political reasons soon afterwards. After his release he moved to Tyre, where he worked as a drawing instructor in the Ja’fariya College. The writer and political activist Ghassan Kanafani saw some of Naji al-Ali’s cartoons on a visit to Ain al-Hilweh and printed the artist’s first published drawings along with an accompanying article in Al-Hurriya no. 88 on 25 September 1961. In 1963 Naji al-Ali moved to Kuwait, hoping to save money to study art in Cairo or Rome. There he worked as an editor, cartoonist, designer and newspaper producer on the Arab nationalist Al-Tali’a newspaper. From 1968 on he worked for Al-Siyasa. In the course of these years he returned to Lebanon several times. In 1974 he started working for the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir, which permitted him to return to Lebanon for a longer period. During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, he was briefly detained by the occupying forces along with other residents of Ain al-Hilweh. In 1983 he once more moved to Kuwait to work for Al-Qabas and in 1985 moved to London where he worked for its international edition until his death. In 1984 he was described by The Guardian as “the nearest thing there is to an Arab public opinion”.

Achievements and Awards

In his career as a political cartoonist, Naji al-Ali produced over 40,000 drawings. They generally deal with the situation of the Palestinian people, depicting suffering and resistance and harshly criticizing the Israeli state and illegal Israeli occupation, Palestinian leadership, and the Arab regimes. Naji al-Ali was a fierce opponent of any settlement that would not vindicate the Palestinian people’s right to all of historic Palestine, and many of his cartoons express this opposition. Unlike many political cartoonists, specific politicians do not appear in person in his work: as he stated, “… I have a class outlook, that is why my cartoons take this form. What is important is drawing situations and realities, not drawing presidents and leaders.” Naji al-Ali published three books of his cartoons, in 1976, 1983 and 1985, and was preparing another at the time of his death. In 1979, Naji al-Ali was elected president of the League of Arab Cartoonists. In 1979 and 1980, he received the first prize in the Arab cartoonists exhibitions held in Damascus. The International Federation of Newspaper Publishers awarded him the “Golden Pen of Freedom” posthumously in 1988.

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