Suhaib Tantoush – bothering the comfortable

Cartoons and caricatures are serious business when it comes to commenting on political and social issues. Striking images can spark a response more swiftly than words and cartoon artists can be effective influencers and activists. RNW Media’s Huna Libya platform works with local artist Suhaib Tantoush to generate and distribute cartoons and caricatures that address often controversial issues in an engaging way.

Huna Libya aims to be a place where young Libyans from different backgrounds can come together to discuss issues that matter to them. It offers different perspectives on restrictive social norms that encourage it’s audience to challenge their mindset.  Cartoons are one of the formats Huna Libya often uses to present a new or challenging perspective and Suhaib Tantoush is a regular contributor. Libyan blogger Malak Altaeb recently interviewed Tantoush about his work and he told her ‘’ الفن هو الذي يزعج المرتاح و يريح المنزعج’’ – Art is what bothers the comfortable and comforts the bothered.

Meaning and laughter
Tantoush is a 24-year-old law graduate whose cartoons and drawings document what Libyans have been going through since the 2011 revolution. He’s been drawing and using art as a way to express himself since childhood and found his way to cartooning in a fifth-grade religious studies class when he was around 10 years old. The teacher asked the students to explain the lesson and Tantoush did so in drawings that made the lesson clear – but also made his teacher and classmates laugh. This made him realise that art is a tool to deliver meaning – and it can make people laugh.

One in a series depicting the dangers of journalism in Libya by Suhaib Tantoush for Huna Libya


His interest in caricature as an art form grew in 2006 when his Grandfather gave him a book by famous Libyan caricaturist Mohamed Al-Zwawi. Al-Zwawi depicted Libya’s struggles during the Gaddafi era in terms of social injustice, economic restraints, political changes and other issues relating to many parts of the Arab world. Tantoush was inspired by his work and the book was a turning point.

Don’t be proud – be better
Tantoush believes the artistic scene in Libya is improving as it gradually becomes more widely known both at home and abroad. Art and beauty have long been considered as something for the privileged few – but that is slowly changing. His work is contributing to that change and Tantoush is an inspiration to many other Libyan artists. But when asked of which work he is most proud, he says his philosophy is to not be proud of your work but to continue striving to be better.

You can find more of Tantoush’s work on Instagram suhaibtarek

Read Malak Altaeb’s full interview on her blog, which she describes as A window to my life as a human and as a Libyan.