Thursday 26 January 2012

New Grassroots Comics from Kenya (first batch)

World Comics Finland’s cooperation with Youth Alive! Kenya is progressing well. The first grassroots comics workshops, run by the tutors who were trained in October 2011, have been held, and we have already received wonderful comics samples from the workshops held by KAPLET and Undugu Society of Kenya.
The selection of comics below takes up issues such as sexual abuse of children, traditional medicine, and drunken driving. The summaries have been translated by Rachael Wandia of Youth Alive! Kenya.

The comics show that the new tutors have been able to competently guide and inspire the participants, who are all social activists.

More samples and reports will follow soon!
In the story, we see three mothers cuddling their children who are unwell. One of the women says that she will give her child some traditional medicine she was given by her mother. Later, we see her lamenting because her child is dead. The story ends with the women seeking treatment from the local clinic having realized that the traditional medicines do not work.

Story and artwork by Mercy Njoki of KAPLET (Kamukunji Paralegal Trust).
This comic shows effectively the consequences of drinking and driving.

Story and artwork by Victor of KAPLET (Kamukunji Paralegal Trust).
The story is about a young girl who is sexually abused at home by her father. Her mother takes her to the police station to report the incident and they go for some tests in hospital. The doctor confirms that the girl has been raped. In the last panel the father is arrested by the police due to defilement.  
Story and artwork by Pinchez Shizzle, a member of one of the association groups from Undugu Society of Kenya.

Friday 20 January 2012

Kaisa Leka gets Puupäähattu prize

We congratulate Comics Artist Kaisa Leka who was yesterday awarded this year’s Puupäähattu prize. It is a prestigious, annual prize awarded by the Finnish Comics Society to an accomplished Finnish comics artist. The prize was named after the hat of of Ola Fogelberg’s classic character Pekka Puupää.

Kaisa Leka is a member of World Comics Finland. She took part in the  Rajasthan workshop in India in 2009 as a trainer (see report: She has her own blog as well:

Other members of World Comics Finland who have received the Puupäähattu prize are: Tarmo Koivisto (1978), Matti Hagelberg (1997), and Katja Tukianen (2003). We will return to them in another blog posting. 

We are proud to note that so many of our members have received the Puupäähattu Award. They have combined extraordinary talent and wit with commitment and vision.  L.P

Kaisa Leka listens to the award speech by Otto Sinisalo, Chairman of the Finnish Comics Society. The ceremony took place 19.1.2012 in the Helsinki University Library.

Kaisa Leka in Rajasthan with Lobsang Tzering, a participant in the workshop where she was a trainer in 2009.  The workshop was part of World Comics Finland's India Programme.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Michael Sagikwa (Tanzania): Campaign comics on human rights issues

Michael Sagikwa (Tanzania) sent us samples from two human rights comics which he made for the Common Ground’s campaigns in Tanzania.

We met Michael first in Morogoro, where he is still based, in the 1996 workshop for comics artists and illustrators. We were immediately struck by his neat artwork and superb hand-lettering. Michael was an apprentice with Katti Ka-Batembo for some time until his own career took off. He has worked for many organisations both with educational campaign comics and illustrations. You can also check him on his blog:  


Below are some sample pages from the stories, “Kwenye njia ya haki” (On the right path) and “Aisha”.

A sample page from Aisha.

Aisha is about sexual harassment. A secondary school teacher tried to rape Aisha. He pretended to help her to improve in Math and invited her to his house. Luckily Aisha managed to escape.

News reached Chacha, Aisha’s father's friend who together with his wife and
Aisha's mother went to file a complaint at the police station against
the teacher (Mr. Muganda). He was later sentenced to 30 years in prison
according to Tanzanian law for such acts.

The Chacha story is about police corruption in Tanzania, and illegal arrests and violation of human rights at the police stations. Chacha, the main character of the series, is being arrested illegally but released a day after the intervention of the OCD (police officer commanding the district).

The police officer solisicts a bribe.

The cover of the booklet.
A sample page fom Chacha.

Hagelberg and Tietäväinen: new books

Two of our trainers, Matti Hagelberg who taught several times in India, and Ville Tietäväinen who taught twice in Tanzania and once in India, have recently published extraordinary comics albums.
The cover of  Hagelberg's album. 
Matti Hagelberg’s album “Intia sataa paraatilleni” (India rains on my parade) is about his trip to India in 2003 for training at comics workshops . The trip took him from Delhi to Tatanagar and then to Mizoram.  Hagelberg describes the trip in his unique, laconic style, blending truth with fantasy in a visually stunning mix. 

The story was first published in French (L’Association en Inde, 2006) and in Swedish (Optimal, 2008). The Finnish version has been published by Kreegah Bundolo. ( Hard cover, 32 pp, ISBN 978-952-67008-6-1

The book is highly recommended. L.P
The cover of Tietäväinen's book.

Näkymättömät kädet  (Invisible hands) by Ville Tietäväinen was a major event in the comics scene in Finland in 2011. It tells the story of a Moroccan family father who migrates to Spain. Immigration is a hotly debated issue all over Europe and Ville’s book shows the grim reality of the immigrant.

The book took five years to complete and we should all be grateful to the Arts Council of Finland who awarded Ville a five-year grant in 2006. The book is an important read, well researched, visually brilliant, with meticulously crafted dialogue.  Hopefully it will be available in other languages soon.  

Book info: Published by WSOY, Helsinki in 2011, hardcover, 216 pp, ISBN: 978-951-0-37928-8

Check out Ville’s work on


Tuesday 10 January 2012

Frank Odoi at the 27th Helsinki Comics Festival

The Kenya-resident, Ghanaian cartoonist and comics artist, Frank Odoi, was our visitor at the Helsinki Comics Festival, 17-19 September, 2011. His trip was co-sponsored by the Finnish Comics Society and World Comics Finland.  He gave a presentation at a Seminar on Comics in Development, and was interviewed on stage and signed his album Golgoti.

An exhibition called ”Frank Odoi – a Versatile Comics Artist” with his comics, cartoons and illustrations, took place at the Tapulinkaupunki library in Northern Helsinki.

Since 1991, when Frank first met with Leif Packalen in Nairobi, he has been an important colleague in World Comics Finland’s activities. He  worked as a trainer at comics workshops  in Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia, and he co-authored the book ”Comics with an Attitude..” which was published by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland in 1999. The book reached a total of eight printings! It is available as a pdf-file at

Frank shares reminiscences from Tanzania, where he and Tarmo Koivisto trained comics artists in the Nineties. Henry’s Pub, the official watering hole for the festival, was of course decorated with comics.

Frank took time to come to visit us in Vantaa. Here with Birgit Packalen in front of the two local sights: the plastic petrol station and the water tower. LP.
Frank visited the library in Tapulinkaupunki, Helsinki, where his exhibition was on display. The exhibition showed the great variety of comics and cartoons that Frank has done, from adventure and fantasy comics, political satire comics, children’s comics to editorial cartoons, caricatures, gag cartoons, illustrations, etc.

The poster for Frank's exhibition.

A group of kids from the neighbourhood had arrived to see Frank at the exhibition. Frank spent an hour drawing and joking with them. He got rock-star treatment from the kids. Drawing: LP.

Comics empowerment in Kenya

World Comics Finland started cooperation with Youth Alive! Kenya ( in October 2011 with a training of trainers (ToT) workshop. Below pictures, drawings and comics from the workshop. 

One of the 18 ToT-workshop participants Buthaina Ibrahim of Undugu Society of Kenya, showed her wallposter comics to people in the Limuru market. Especially the kids were mesmerized. Photo Hanna Arvela.

Hanna Arvela and Leif Packalen of World Comics Finland were trainers at the workshop. Drawing: LP.

Group photograph from the trainers' workshop in Limuru.
Immediately after the ToT-workshop, the new trainers practised their skills in a three-day test workshop in Pumwani Social Hall in Kamkunji. Here Festus Mwiti (left) and Michael Oduor (right) instruct social activists from different organisations in the Kamukunji area. 

To get feedback to the comics from ordinary people in the community, is always important. Interaction with people gives insight into how the comics are actually understood, and what could be made in a different way. Drawing: L.P.

Ms. Mildred Aiwso of KAPLET (Kamukunji Paralegal Trust) made the story about violence against women. The husband beats his wife and she reports it to the Police Chief, who calls a meeting of the elders. At the meeting the chief speaks against the violence.

Festus Mwiti of Gay Kenya Trust made this strip about a gay person who was harassed by a couple. The police intervened and arrested the couple. The strip is called “Gay rights are human rights”. Being homosexual was only very recently decriminalised in Kenya, so this information needs to be spread.

Isaak Traore (Mali): Comic on children’s right to organisation

Isaak Traore made this four-page comic about children’s rights to organisation and its benefits. An accident happened to Sekou, while he was preparing for a village meeting celebrating the annual “Day of the African Child”. Because his organisation was well connected to EJT (The Mali branch of the African Movement for Working Children and Youth), in the capital, they could get medical help to Sekou quickly. The story ends with Sekou opening the village meeting. 

 Isaak Traore is the Head  of Communication at EJT Mali. I first met Isaak in Benin in 2005 at the Grassroots Comics workshop in Cotonou. He has continued making comics and has also worked as a trainer in several grassroots comics workshops for the AMWCY in West Africa. His comics are always a delight to read. L.P

Tuesday 3 January 2012

World Comics Finland opens a blog

Welcome to World Comics Finland’s blog, which we have decided to call ”Comics with Attitude”. 
This was also the title of our first book which was written by Leif Packalen and Frank Odoi as early as 1999.  Since then a lot has happened in the field of  comics in communication, grassroots comics, educational comics, campaign comics, etc. Our organisation has certainly contributed to some of this development and several Comics Power -offshoots have emerged in different parts of the world.

We decided to establish this blog to be able to share World Comics Finland’s news and to upload examples of  interesting visual  material, often resulting from comics workshops. 

It has proven a bit cumbersome to efficiently upload the news items on our website All the news items from 2010-2011 can also be read, for easy reference, in this blog. We will, however, continue with our website, update its contents, and add new manuals, etc, when there is need for that. So don’t forget to check our website as well.

Why a blog and not Facebook? We believe in reliable news and serious discussion (even on a subject such as comics), and not hastily scribbled opinions, congratulations, and ”likes”.  We hope that our blog can  give new insights and ideas, and open the readers’ eyes for what can be done with comics. Some of the visual material which we are going to share is amazing, and shows the potential of what can be done with comics in communication.

Main language will be English, but entries in other languages are also possible, e.g. Finnish, French, Italian, Swahili, Swedish (we can always try to summarize in English).

The blog is meant to be interactive, and we welcome comments, reviews, articles and  pictures. We will, however, moderate the contents.

Enjoy reading!

Burundi, one year later...

Originally published on Aug 21, 2011

APDH activists having a review session at a recent workshop in Gashikanwa near Ngozi.

Our cooperation partner in Burundi, L’Association pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme (APDH) sent us about fifty new comics which have been made in APDH’s projects in Northern Burundi. 

We are very pleased to see that the 18 people we trained in 2010 have passed on the skill of making grassroots comics in many locations. The themes of the comics are: birth control, women’s rights, land issues, heritage rights, alcohol and drug abuse, sex abuse, corruption, forest fires, tree-planting, abuse of domestic help, nutrition, joblessness, the rights of the accused, etc.

Almost 1000 comics have been made during the year, and they will be arranged according to themes and locations, and made into booklets to be used in project activities.

Again, one can see that grassroots comics work well for an organisation, such as APDH, which has a broad-based human rights approach in its work.

The comic below was made by Ms. Nelly Kwizera in a workshop in Muremera. Summary of the story: A mother fears for the safety of her albino baby and suspects some neighbors will kill it for witchcraft. This, however, does not happen, thanks to the timely intervention by the police.

Comic by Ms. Nelly Kwizera

World Village Festival

Originally published in Aug 21, 2011

The annual mega-event World Village Festival took place in Helsinki end of May 2011. It was attended by sixty to seventy thousand people and gave an excellent opportunity for about 200 organisations to present their work, get new contacts, and exchange ideas. 

World Comics Finland participated with a small exhibition of grassroots comics and by giving information about its activities, selling publications, etc.
A small competition of inventing texts for speech balloons was held at our stand, and it was very popular among children and teenagers who wrote catchy texts and showed aptitude for the medium of comics.

Samra, 9 years, participating in a balloon text competition at World Village Festival, Helsinki 2011

At the festival we also launched our new Comics Power! –pin in different colours. The Comics Power!-logo was designed by Leif Packalen as early as 1994. It is now in wide use by different informal comics groups around the world.

Cooperation with Youth Alive! Kenya starts in October

Originally published on Aug 21, 2011

We have a new cooperation partner: Youth Alive! Kenya ( Training of grassroots comics trainers will be arranged in Nairobi in October 2011 with two tutors from World Comics Finland. 

YAK will identify the participants from its network and coordinate the workshop and the ensuing activities of taking the grassroots comics concept to the community. 

Funding for the project comes from from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (Cultural Cooperation Funds).

Comics workshop on environment, Bamako, Mali

Originally published on May 15, 2011

Ms Aminata Doumbia and Ms Aminata Barry of MFC Nyetaa participated in the workshop. Picture: Heidi Leino

A one-day grassroots comics workshop was held in Bamako, Mali, in November 2010, for ten employees of MFC Nyetaa, an NGO on environment. Many of the participants told they had no previous experience from drawing. 

However, after some exercises, they were able to produce convincing comics about development issues. They were very positive about using comics as a tool in their future activities in which awareness raising about the sustainable use of natural resources plays a central role.

The workshop was run by Ms. Heidi Leino (NGO activist and a member of World Comics Finland) who is also involved in the Grassroots Comics School Visitor -programme with the Youth Academy in Finland.

The comic below was made in the Bamako workshop by Lasseni Traore.

Comic by Lasséni Traore

Government funding for grassroots comics workshops in schools

Originally published on May 15, 2011

The Youth Academy (Nuorten Akatemia) of Finland receives funding from the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s development education funds for a grassroots comics project in 2011-2012. The main feature of the project is 225 school visits, during which students, aged 13-19, make grassroots comics about their views on development issues. 

This is a joint effort between the Youth Academy, World Comics Finland, and some other NGOs, and it is the second of its kind. In 2009-2010 a very successful pilot project with 130 school visits was realized on the theme of globalisation.

The project has a steering committee with representation of all participating NGOs, and the activities are under constant review and evaluation.

Long cooperation project with World Comics India comes to an end

Originally published on Jan 4, 2011
Outside WCI’s office in Delhi in 2009

We started cooperation with cartoonist Sharad Sharma in 2000 which led to the establishment of World Comics India in 2002. It has been a long and intensive cooperation and World Comics India is now a self-sufficient, empowered organisation which stands on its own feet.

The cooperation programme 2003-2010 between World Comics Finland and World Comics India was mainly funded from the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s development funds, to a total of about 140.000 euro, with about 15 % self-financing raised by WCF. 

Over the years, eight Finnish trainers taught at workshops in India, and Sharad Sharma was a frequent visitor to Finland. In addition to training workshops, the grants also covered during the last four years office rent, salary of staff, equipment, administrative expenses, etc. Read more about the workshops

More about WCI’s achievements on

Comics workshops on working children’s rights

Originally published on Jan 1, 2011

Stick figure body drawing exercise. Picture by Isaak Traore

The African Movement for Working Children and Youth (AMWCY) arranged comics workshops in 2010 in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Rwanda. Well over a hundred children and youths participated in the workshops. 

The topics of the comics were drawn from the activities of the AMWCY members and the actions they engage in to realize their rights; birth certificates for children, ill treatment and violence, exploitation of working children, female genital mutilation and its consequences. 

More about the workshops in AMWCY’s newsletter

AMWCY got their first introduction to grassroots comics in 2005 in a workshop in Cotonou, Benin. More in our workshop list

Grassroots Comics in Tonga and Fiji

Originally published on Oct 2, 2010
Proud pupils display their comics in Lautoka, Fiji. Photo Tiina Jaatinen/Heidi Karvonen

Two Finnish students, Tiina Jaatinen and Heidi Karvonen, travelled in the Pacific Islands in the summer of 2010. They were involved in the Globalisation Comics -project that was run in Finnish schools in 2009-2010 by Nuorten Akatemia (Youth Academy). Therefore, they were familiar with the grassroots comics concept.

In Fiji they ran a short workshop with 40 participants in Natabua High School in Lautoka. The theme of the comics was global warming as the school happened to have an Environment week.

The Bahai youth group in Tonga. Photo: Tiina Jaatinen/Heidi Karvonen

In Tonga, they ran a workshop with a Bahai junior youth group. The comics were about how young people can do service to the community: e.g. by planting trees, by promoting litter-free environment, and by arranging activities for children and youth.

Burundi cooperation started

Originally published on Oct 2, 2010

Resource persons from Finland were Leif Packalen and Johanna Rojola.

The Association for Peace and Human Rights (APDH) in Burundi arranged in cooperation with World Comics Finland a grassroots comics tutor-training workshop in Ngozi in July, 2010. APDH runs a one-year project called: “Towards a culture of democracy in Burundi: local comics on elections and governance.” 

The project intends to produce mainly wallposter comics and publish a collection of comics at a later stage. A total of 60 wallposter comics were produced during the workshop in Ngozi. 

A Kirundi-language grassroots comics manual and a tutor’s guide were prepared for the workshop and are now available on our website.

Caricatures for fundraising

Originally published on Oct 2, 2010
The caricature machine at Kopiosto’s 30-year anniversary in 2009. Photo: Maria Bergenhoj

For a small organisation, money is always a problem. Fortunately, we have amongst our board members daring artistic creativity. Two of Finland’s top comics artists, Katja Tukiainen and Tarmo Koivisto put their heads together, and designed something we call “Caricature machine”. 

It is a box, built and decorated by Katja, in her trade-mark pink. Money is inserted in a slot, and five minutes later a caricature exits from another slot. The model cannot see who is in the box, or what is happening there, because of the ingenious two-way mirror.

Finnish comics artists, who are sympathetic to our work, take turns in drawing inside the box, which is actually too small for everybody (except for rather petite Katja who built it). The caricature machine is very popular at events, festivals, etc.

The Academic bookstore in Helsinki arranges an annual event called Night of the Books. Since 2002, the caricature machine has been one of the attractions there, with a long queue of aficionados, some of whom come back every year. The proceeds have been used to support our cooperation project with World Comics India.

Grassroots Comics in Mwanza, Tanzania

Originally published on May 2, 2010

Comics tutor Sunday Ngakama (right) explains drawing to workshop participants from the Tanzania Albino Society. Picture: Sanna Hukkanen.

Shivyawata is an umbrella organisation of disabled people's organisations in Mwanza Region, Tanzania. Shivyawata arranged four grassroots comics workshops in Mwanza, in January 2010 for the local branches of Tanzania Association of the Deaf, Tanzania Albino Society, Tanzania Association of the Physically Handicapped, and Tanzania Association of Mentally Handicapped. The workshops were attended by 51 participants.

The workshops were funded by Abilis Foundation of Finland. The tutors at the workshops were comics artists Sunday Ngakama and Sanna Hukkanen. Read the full report.

The comics were made as wallposters. Some were also published in small photocopied booklets.

The whole idea of comics seemed a bit difficult for many in the beginning. But in the end, when the participants saw their artwork ready, it was very rewarding for them. The stories were often based on personal real-life experiences. 

The participants had very strong, even shocking messages in their comics, which made them a very powerful tool for campaigning and for changing attitudes.

Peer group scrutiny of the comics at the workshop for Tanzania Association of the Deaf. Picture: Sanna Hukkanen.

Grassroots comics catching on in Estonia

Originally published on May 2, 2010
Detail from a comic which compares school conditions between Estonia and Afghanistan. Artwork and story by Liis Leedo, Tallinn.

The Estonian branch of the European Youth Bureau ran a few grassroots comics workshops at the end of 2009 in Tallinn. The themes were about unemployment and development cooperation. More on the organisation’s website (in Estonian). Some of the comics are in English.

Comics booklet from Dakar grassroots workshop

Originally published on May 2, 2010

Finnish artist, Kaija Papu, went to Senegal in 2008 to run a workshop at the Finnish–Senegalese cultural center, Sunu Kër, in Dakar. The idea was to make comics about issues important to the young participants, who were from the neighbourhood.

Kaija Papu compiled the comics in a small booklet called “PosterPlay”. The book, with texts in French and English, is available in print from Kaino-kustanne and online as a PDF-file.

We found out about the book only recently, but think it is definitively something to share.

World Comics Finland launches its renewed website!

Originally published on January 8, 2010

Drawing: Leif Packalen

Six months in front of the computer is behind us. Our renewed site is ready and uploaded. We have tried to make it uncluttered and easy to read.

The main site design, image manipulation, and coding has been made by Joonas From, the texts and other content by a group of World Comics Finland volunteers.

We thank everybody who has helped us, and our special thanks go to the Otto A. Malm Foundation, who generously provided a grant for the website renewal.
Check out the page and send us feedback on: