An iconic figure in the world of contemporary Arabic comic books, the Egyptian Mohammed Shennawy is a trailblazer, willing to denounce the shortcomings of a country and a society in the midst of a major transition.
Published on 15/04/2019
Born in 1978 in Cairo, since he was a teenager Mohammed Shennawy has been developing a passion for comic books, an art which is not particularly well-developed in the Arab world and which he discovered through Franco-Belgian authors like Hervé and Franquin.
After beginning a career in advertising and product design and doing a few drawings for the Alaa El Din magazine in the early 2000s, his career as a cartoonist really took off in 2009 when he received the Young Talent Prize at the Angoulême Festival for his comic book, Plus de batterie.
In 2011, Mohammed Shennawy participated in the creation of Toktok, the comic book review. An illustrator and graphic designer, notably for Unesco, he founded the Cairo Comix Festival in 2015 with his colleague Magdy El Shafee.
It was in Toktok, published in Cairo beginning in 2011, that Shennawy really developed his style: realistic comics on the cutting edge of societal shifts.
In this fanzine, named after the motorised tricycles that Cairo residents use for transport, Shennawy and his colleagues are inspired by the daily life of their Egyptian friends and family.
Beyond the very different styles of the various cartoonists, the quarterly review retains a unity of tone through its uncensored choice of subjects, which are often oriented towards the problems of a society which has been in the midst of a major transition since the Egyptian revolution.
Mohammed Shennawy is actively involved in the development of Arabic comic books and their dissemination around the world. In January 2018, he took part in “La nouvelle bande dessinée arabe” (“The New Arab Comic Book”) exhibition, presented at the Angoulême festival, which brought together authors from North Africa and the Middle East. He also directed the eponymous collection, The New Arab Comic Book, published in 2018 by Actes Sud. The book showcases young Lebanese (Samandal), Moroccan (Skefkef) and Tunisian (Lab619) journals, which are independent, very committed to freedom of expression and do not hesitate to discuss controversial issues. They bring together a generation marked by successive Arab springs, hopes and disillusionment, fights that are finished and struggles still to be won.
Plus de batterie wins the Young Talent prize at the Angoulême international comic book festival.
A few weeks before the start of the revolutionary events in Egypt, Shennawy and four other cartoonists and artists create the fanzine Toktok, one of the few platforms through which they can display their work.
With illustrator El Shafee, Shennawy co-founds the Cairo Comix Festival, a festival in the heart of Cairo dedicated solely to comics.
Shennawy directs the The New Arab Comic Book collection and participates in the exhibition of the same name at the Angoulême international comic book festival.
The New Arab Comic Book, edited by Shennawy, received support from the Franco-German Cultural Fund in 2017.
Managed by the Institut français, this fund promotes Franco-German cultural cooperation abroad by supporting projects carried out in close collaboration with local cultural actors.