How to change society with a single sentence


Nanda Soobben was always going to be an artist. Growing up, sketching was fun and natural. His first caricatures were drawn on walls with charcoal, pictures born out of a child’s fascination with football. He had no TV, so his imagination brought the moves of the pros to life. But as Soobben came of age in a disfigured country, that carefree approach to drawing gave way to a sense of socio-political responsibility. And he started working as a political cartoonist opposed to apartheid – no small feat before 1994.

As a young man Soobben was denied entry into university. But he refused to let his lack of access to formal education quieten his voice. He continued to produce cartoons that challenged the status quo, most notably delivering an exhibition centred on apartheid’s forced removals. Still keen to develop his skill as an artist he later spent time in Brazil and then New York, working internships to further his learning. By the time he returned home Soobben had progressed in mind from talent to teacher. He just needed some pupils.

Without much of a plan he began to mentor anyone who was willing to listen. The response to his offer of creative wisdom was immense. So Soobben formalised his approach, starting the Centre for Fine Art, Animation and Design (CFDA). He’s been running the institution ever since, using his years of experience to give young people the education he was denied. His teaching is two-fold in that, along with developing artistic skill in his students, Soobben wants to educate the community about the value of cartooning as an art-form and its place in politics. As it did during apartheid, he believes it will play a crucial role in the future of South Africa.