Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist from Sudan, will come to Colby College in the fall as the 2016 Oak Fellow at the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights. Albaih uses his daring, often biting cartoons to champion freedom of expression and democracy in the Arab world, while criticizing Western Islamophobia and U.S. practices including torture and drone attacks.
Oak’s selection will showcase the powerful role of the arts in promoting human rights.
“We received applications from amazing artists around the world, but Khalid stood out because his work has inspired so many citizens inside and outside the Arab world to demand better behavior from their governments and from one another,” said Associate Professor of Government and Director of the Oak Institute Walter Hatch.
Albaih draws simple but evocative images that are primarily displayed online. Many of those images have gone viral, earning him international recognition. Huffington Post mentions him first in its list of the world’s leading Arab cartoonists.
During the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, Albaih’s images were turned into stencils and reproduced on city walls in Cairo and Sana’a. He acquired thousands of followers on his Facebook site (“Khartoon!”—a play on his artistic medium and his former home in the capital of Sudan). His work also has appeared in exhibitions in Vienna, London, Montreal, Detroit, Bahrain, and The Hague and has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times and Al-Jazeera.
The son of a diplomat and a social justice activist, Albaih was born in Romania and grew up in Sudan and Qatar, where he now lives. He received a B.A. in interior design engineering from the Ajman University of Science and Technology and worked as a graphic designer and multimedia specialist before becoming head of installations and design for public art in Qatar Museums Authority.
Albaih, who helped create the Khartoum Contemporary Art Centre, is now unsafe in his homeland, where his satirical cartoons have upset members of the authoritarian regime and precipitated threats on his life.
He is eager to spend his time in Maine connecting with local artists and discussing politics and culture with students, faculty, and staff. “I want to interact with a new audience, learn about them, and help them better understand some of the different perspectives of my region, the Middle East and North Africa.”