Friday 24 February 2012

Comics by immigrants in North Karelia, Finland

Grassroots Comics were made by immigrants, refugees and Finns in two workshops in the Joensuu area. The workshops took place in October and November 2011 at the multicultural centre Vatakka in Joensuu and at the Kontioniemi reception centre for asylum seekers. Both are run by the Finnish Red Cross. The tutors and organisers of the workshops were artists Sanna Hukkanen and Sunday Mpanduji and the project was funded by Otto A. Malm’s Donation Fund.

The many faces of Antoni Kokko. Picture: Sunday Mpanduji.
The participants of  the Vatakka workshop were mainly Finnish, though a few immigrants participated, too. It was difficult to get immigrants involved.  The participants chose to make their comics about prejudice. They showed strong enthusiasm for comic making, and some of them managed to complete two wallposter comics. The organizers also hoped to get the voices of immigrants heard, so another comics workshop was held in Kontioniemi.

The residents of Kontioniemi centre are quite isolated as it is located far from town. They chose the theme Finland for their comics, but when they started creating their stories, many complained that they had very little experience from Finland. One participant was drawing a tree and stars, and when asked, he explained that it was all he had seen in Finland, “the tree and stars just outside the door”. Some participants made comics about Finnish climate that was new and extreme to them. One commented on the isolated conditions at the reception centre and also told about his background in his comic. 

In Kontioniemi there were some language difficulties in teaching, since everybody seemed to speak a different language. Some participants didn’t have any earlier experience of comics, so the whole concept was new to them. Despite the difficulties many wonderful comics were created during the workshop. The participants were happy and proud to get a chance to express themselves through the medium of comics.

The comics made during both workshops were displayed in an exhibition in Vatakka and distributed in the Joensuu area as posters and booklets. Two of the comics were even published in the local newspaper Karjalainen.

Sanna Hukkanen

I fled Iraq, when my life was in danger and came to Finland. I was safe.  Soon I felt like a prisoner, I had not seen my children and wife  for a long time.  I miss them so much.  Story and art by Yashar Abdokarim-Shakr.

Musa was in Helsinki last year and tried skating. He fell on the ice and the onlookers laughed.  He was ashamed.  This year he wants to try skating again. Story and art by Musa Mohammadi.

Friday 17 February 2012

Kenya comics workshop (ToT) 2011

Comics Power to Kenya, enjoy and get inspired!

Saturday 4 February 2012

More comics from Burundi

We recently received more grassroots comics from APDH (Association pour la Paix et les Droits de L’Homme), our partner organisation in Ngozi, Burundi. The comics have been made in their network of human right clubs.

They take up issues such as land problems, violence against women, right to education, communal harmony, etc.

Below three samples in Kirundi with English and French translations provided by René Claude Niyonkuru, Coordinator of the Comics Project.

“Indyane z'amatongo” A man hires a killer to eliminate a landowner in order to appropriate his land. His brother intervenes and reports it to the the court. The criminals are sentenced to life in prison.

Story and artwork by Chris-Nathan Akimana of DH (LCUM)

Un homme engage un tueur pour éliminer un propriétaire d’un fond de terre afin de s’en approprier. Son frère saisit la justice pour dénoncer l’affaire et les
criminels se voient condamner à perpétuité.

“Indyane z'imigabwe” A man had strong negative feelings for his political opponents. He thought they wanted him harm only. But paradoxically, it was one of them who came to his aid when he fell into a ditch when chased by a rabid dog.

Story and artwork by Kaze Sosthene  of  L.C.Club de Muremba

Un homme voyait d’un mauvais oeil ses opposant politiques. Il pensait qu’ils ne lui voulaient que du mal. Mais paradoxalement, c’est l’un de ceux-là qui lui vint en aide quant il tomba dans un fossé pourchassé par un chien enragé.
“Ntiduturubike ibibondo” A child raised by a stepmother is unable to attend school like other children. He is reduced to slavery and has to do all the work of the house. He is rescued by a defender of human rights, who pleads for him successfully.

Story and artwork by Niyonizigiye Eddy, club APDH (LCUM)

Un enfant élevé par sa marâtre est empêché de fréquenter l’école comme les autres enfants. Il est réduit à l’état d’esclavage et fait tout les travaux de la maison. Il est secouru par un défenseur des droits de l’homme qui plaide pour lui avec succès devant ses parents.

Burundi – comics help people to participate

 René Claude Niyonkuru, Lawyer and Land Consultant, Coordinator of APDH’s Comics Project.

APDH (Association pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme) is World Comics Finland’s partner organisation in a grassroots comics project in Burundi. The project started in 2010 and has now reached almost completion. 

A quote from a report by APDH’s Comics Project Coordinator René Claude Niyonkuru:

Grassroots comics were introduced in Burundi for the first time with this small project but it didn’t take a long time to discover, both for APDH, its partners and the community, how useful and powerful it is as a development and social change communication tool.

In the beginning, there was hesitation and confusion, where people, not familiar with mass education, were sceptical that no one, among communities or decision makers, will ever take into consideration “banal drawings” from rural women or young pupils in schools; that the well-educated cannot “waste time” drawing to express their views while they can use well-articulated speeches!

Other people were afraid, stating that drawing is not an innate talent, available for everyone!” …

“As it is relevant, especially for our rural and illiterate beneficiaries, the project needs to be pursued.

Grassroots comics will surely help as a communication tool in the preparation and the functioning of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and, once again in the preparation of the 2015 elections. We need people and communities to participate in the whole process, and we need tools and techniques for that.”…

More samples of comics made by clubs and groups in APDH’s network will soon be posted here.

Critique session at a comics workshop in Ngozi, 2011

Friday 3 February 2012

Plano de treinamento para facilitadores de workshops de quadrinhos

The Portuguese translation of our trainer’s manual, for the use of grassroots comics trainers, is finally available. The trainer’s manual has 40 pages, and it can be downloaded from

This manual is a step by step guide to how to run a grassroots comics workshop. It should be used together with the basic grassroots comics manual, which is handed out to workshop participants. The basic manual is available on:

Thursday 2 February 2012

Koivisto, Hagelberg, and Tukiainen received their Puupäähattu-awards 1978, 1997, and 2003.

Inspired by Kaisa Lekas’s Pupäähattu- award (see blogpost entry 15.1.2012) we had a look at other Puupäähattu-awardees within our membership. So, in chronological order:


Tarmo Koivisto, a founding member and Vice-Chairman of World Comics Finland, received the Puupäähattu-award in 1978. He is one of the pioneers of modern comics in Finland. His Mämmilä series, which he started as a strip in 1974, deals with contemporary Finnish life in a small fictive town. His comics comment on issues such as the first African refugees and membership in the European Union. Mämmilä town has numerous colourful characters. Over the years Mämmilä has proved to be one of the most-loved comics in Finland.

Tarmo has been a trainer in several of our workshops in Tanzania and India.

Tarmo’s own drawing  of the comics workshop with TAPOMA in Morogoro, Tanzania, in 1996. We had to shift from one classroom to a bigger one. One can see Katti Ka-Batembo on his motorcycle,  Gayo carrying his light-table and in the last row, Frank Odoi and Leif Packalen. Tarmo has drawn himself, sweating.
Tarmo teaching at our first workshop in India, in Tamil Nadu in 1997 with VCDS. This was where we discovered the idea of grassroots comics.


Matti Hagelberg and Katja Tukiainen  have both influenced the comics scene in Finland tremendously. Matti got his Puupäähattu-award in 1997 and Katja hers in 2003. Both have also worked as comics trainers in our workshops in India.

Katja has been a World Comics Finland board member since 2000. Her commitment and creativeness have been great assets to our organisation. To get a full picture of Katja pls check her homepage

Matti Hagelberg has produced 18 comic albums and is also widely published abroad. He is a long-time member of World Comics Finland.

Katja and Matti in a workshop with WCI, in 2004, in Aizawl, Mizoram, India.

Katja’s drawing from the VCDS’ workshop in 2001 in Tamil Nadu, India.
Matti’s drawing from the VCDS’ workshop in 2001, in Tamil Nadu, India