Bengaluru cartoonist Rachita Taneja honored with prestigious international award

This B’luru-based cartoonist, known for her satirical webcomics addressing current events, was recently honoured with the prestigious Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award
Bengaluru cartoonist Rachita Taneja
Bengaluru cartoonist Rachita Taneja

BENGALURU: From time immemorial, satire has been a potent tool for social commentary. Cartoonists have long championed satire to distil complex issues of the day into simple-yet-impactful visuals, often accompanied by witty captions. Icons like RK Laxman used humour, irony, and

exaggeration to challenge authority and reflect society’s shortcomings while garnering immense popular appeal. Among the new crop of cartoonists carrying this tradition forward is Rachita Taneja, known for her incisive web cartoon series, Sanitary Panels. Recently, the Bengaluru-based artist was announced as a recipient of the 2024 Kofi Annan Courage in Cartooning Award, sharing the honour with Hong Kong’s Zunzi.

“I was shocked when I found out, but in a good way. I feel very grateful,” says Taneja, adding, “Many people said the award was well-deserved, which helps with my impostor syndrome. Sharing it with a prolific cartoonist like Zunzi made me question if I deserved it. But the positive response reassures me.”

A panel from Taneja’s web comic series
A panel from Taneja’s web comic series

Started in 2014 ‘on a whim,’ Sanitary Panels has nearly 200k followers on social media. Taneja uses simple but powerful illustrations to comment on current events, gender issues, and human rights. And along the way, she has drawn plenty of ire from those in power.

“At that time, some students were arrested for posting a political meme or opinion on social media, which ticked me off. So, I decided to make a comic about it. It started as a doodle in my notebook, which my brother found funny. Since he has high standards, I thought, why not? I started a Facebook page, and it grew from there.

I kept making comics,” shares Taneja. “I was interested in news, politics, current affairs, and societal issues. I really liked the visual medium and wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, but I quickly realised I didn’t have the patience for it. I spent a lot of time on the internet during my college years and wanted to do something on social media. I knew I wanted a visual format, so I tried comics. I had no idea it would take-off like this,” she adds.

At a time when India ranks 159 out of 180 in the Press Freedom Index, cartoonists like Taneja have found significant resonance among audiences. “They often target satirists first, which shows their impact. I grew up reading Laxman, and while I didn’t fully understand his work as a child, I was drawn to it. There are still many powerful political cartoonists today, and younger artists on social media doing phenomenal work. The internet has made it easier for people to create and share their work without traditional barriers,” says Taneja.

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The New Indian Express