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Woppened: Seeing the humorous side of situations

Gentle humour: Cartoonist Peter Woolcock shows off 'Woppened 22'.

Woppened? What kind of word is woppened? My immediate thought was that it looked Bermudian and as it turns out, it is. Actually, it is the invention of political cartoonist, Peter Woolcock and is the past tense of woppenin’? or, what happened?For many years, for 22 years, to be exact, in the weeks leading up to Christmas Peter Woolcock’s political cartoons have been published as an annual collection, thus the title of this year’s version, ‘Woppened 22’.The political cartoon has had a long and notable history. As to its beginnings: that is debatable, but it goes back to at least the 16th century.From that era, for example, there is an engraving by Lucas Cranach the Elder, of a Pope living a life of luxury. Beside it is a depiction of Christ as a man of poverty. During the 18th century, English artists William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray made satirical engravings of political leaders of that day.They are characteristically pointed and depict considerable corruption.Somewhat later, the Spanish artist Francisco Goya also made a series of highly expressive engravings of the ‘Horrors of War’.During the time of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin created a political cartoon that supported the American cause.In it, he depicted a snake that had been severed into a number of separate parts, each symbolising one of the America colonies. The caption says “Join or Die”.During the 19th century, the French artist Honoré Daumier made such charged political cartoons that he was sent to prison for six months.In one case he depicted the French king devouring the taxes of the people, thereby growing to obese proportions.Additionally Daumier took on the French law courts, showing them as corrupt. As we near our own times, the political cartoon has become a popular feature of most newspapers, each expressing varying political persuasions.At the end of the 19th century, the notorious Dreyfus affair, which eventually brought down the French government, stimulated all kinds of political cartoons, many being viciously pro-government and decidedly anti-Semitic.For those who do not know about the Dreyfus case, Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish military officer in the French army, who was accused of selling military secrets to the Germans.He was found guilty by the courts and sentenced to solitary confinement on the French penal colony of Devil’s Island.There he nearly died, but two years later, evidence surfaced indicating that he had been framed on fabricated documents. He was finally exonerated.In our own times, former US President George W Bush was a particular target of the political cartoonists, as is President Barack Obama today.Peter Woolcock, our own political cartoonist, is noted for his most gentlemanly approach to the genre which only goes to show that it is possible to make worthwhile political points without being vicious.His genius is his ability to create convincing likenesses of politicians and community leaders and at the same time, give them an array of expressions, so that you not only recognise them, but also grasp their varying moods and emotions.Of course, he also places them in situations that suit the particular events depicted, which are usually light-hearted and good humoured.I have carefully gone through ‘Woppened 22’, attempting to select some cartoons that I could recommend as being especially appealing, but I find that just about impossible, as they poke fun at and recall many of the political events of the past year.All are notable. Peter Woolcock has a cunning sense of humour, as Louise Jackson points out in her introduction to this latest edition.I have to mention Mr Woolcock’s final episode, however, which is actually non-political.In it he refers to a conversation with a woman he met at a local concert, who mentioned her nephew as someone who played the “bosoom”.Peter Woolcock has the great ability of seeing the humorous side of situations. What a wonderful gift.‘Woppened 22’ will make a wonderful Christmas gift.