Arts & CultureBooksLIFESTYLE

Sharpened Word: Running Out of Ideas, Zunar?

By Jo Lynn Chong

The first instalment of Sharpened Word Year 2020 was held at 22 Hale Street on Saturday, January 11. Zulkiflee Sm Anwar Ulhaque or ZUNAR, Malaysia’s well-known political cartoonist, was the sole panellist present.

“Last time my mission was to save the nation. Now my mission is to rebuild the nation,” Zunar enthused.

He recalled the good old days when he had “cartoonable” Datin Seri Hajah Rosmah Binti Mansor as his subject.

Moving forward, Zunar conveyed that Malaysians need to continue voicing out and criticising the current government in the event that it fails to perform its job well.

“We’ve to take part in rebuilding this country at our level,” he emphasised. “You don’t think: leave it to the government to do, we have ministers to do. No!” he asserted.

“Making a good country is a bottom-up process, not top-bottom,” Zunar opined.

Having his first cartoon published when he was 12, Zunar used to draw cartoons for his school magazine in which he criticised his disciplinary teacher. “My first cartoon was banned when I was 17,” Zunar chuckled. “So this ban is not a new thing.”

Relating this to his philosophy, “How can I be neutral, even my pen has a stand,” Zunar explained that he believes in making a stand, even if it means taking a risk. “For me, I suspect neutralism is escapism,” he stressed.

In his quest to rebuild Malaysia, Zunar now turns to topics of racism. His newest book, “Kartun Anti Racism” aims to spread awareness about this issue that is deeply rooted in our Malaysian society.

“This thing is very dangerous but it needs to be said,” he remarked. “If we don’t love each other, we don’t love the country,” he stated, further explaining that Independence Day is pointless if Malaysians do not love each other.

When asked about the cartoon industry, Zunar explained that cartoonists have to always keep up with current issues and mentalities. “A good cartoonist is one that is a step ahead of the audience,” he insisted. “In Malaysia, sadly, very few cartoonists take up political cartoons,” he sighed.

Elaborating about his style of drawing, Zunar explained, “I don’t draw what I see; I draw what I think, what is inside my mind.”

Giving an example, he explained, “Why the hair is RM1200 all the time?” alluding to his drawings of Datin Seri Hajah Rosmah Binti Mansor, “because since she said that the cost of hairdo is RM1200, but at the same time, actually, this is the minimum salary people are asking,” he emphasised.

“I like to draw something that we can share in common,” he retorted.

“Art that comes from hand, reach eyes but art that comes from the heart reaches the heart,” he told this scribe.

Priced at RM30, “Kartun Anti Racism” is published in bilingual form, English and Bahasa Melayu. It is available online at and

For more information, go to


Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button