How a Cartoon of a Racing Shell Explains Britain’s Brexit

dessin kak
Signature ‘Kak”s take on Brexit in the French newspaper L’Opinion. Courtesy of ‘Kak’.

26 February 2016

Earlier this week, a funny cartoon by ‘Kak’*, an editorial cartoonist on the French newspaper L’Opinion made its round in the Rowing Twitter World. It showed an image of some of Europe’s political leaders out rowing in a racing shell. Among them, in the bow seat, is Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, who during the week managed to make a deal with the European Union (EU) for special treatment within the EU to try to avoid Britain leaving the EU, or as it is known in Britain, Brexit. There will be a referendum in Britain on 23 June 2016.

HTBS’s French correspondent, Hélène Rémond, caught up with ‘Kak’ to ask him some questions about his ‘rowing cartoon’. 

What did your newspaper L’Opinion ask for?
Everyday L’Opinion asks me to illustrate the front page lead story. I attend the 10 a.m. editorial meeting and the chief editors give me the day’s main topic. They expect me to suggest several cartoon ideas about it, as close as possible to the angle of the story… and as funny as possible.

For that Brexit piece of news, they simply told me that their story would be about everything that could go wrong for David Cameron and the UK, now that he reached this ’deal’ with Europe in order to avoid Brexit.

Why did you choose a rowing boat?
There were many angles about this topic. So, I had various ideas. One of them, I want to suggest that the UK was maybe overstepping the mark. They already have a privileged deal within the EU and now they want more. I first imagined a roman galley with everyone rowing, also with the Brits who were complaining. And then I opted for the rowing sport team for two reasons: (A) I consider the EU is more a sports team than slaves on a roman galley… (B) The rowing competitions are a symbol of Oxford/Cambridge = UK elite, like Mr Cameron.

In general, sports are very useful for an editorial cartoonist: they are the best symbol we know to show a group of people either making efforts together or fighting each other. Sports are far more popular than politics or economics, so it is a smart way to lure people to your cartoon. Not mentioning that there are no sports pages in L’Opinion, if I did not sometimes include sports in the cartoons, there would be none what so ever in the paper.

Could you explain this cartoon related to Brexit?
Regarding Mr Cameron’s quote, I first wrote it entirely in French. But my chief editor suggested it would be funnier if he spoke franglais (aka ‘Frenglish’).

For the rest, I stopped the image on the left to suggest the rest of the rowing team (25 more people?). For the other characters in the cartoon, I chose Mrs. Merkel because she is the more influent, Mr Hollande because L’Opinion is a French paper and Mr Juncker because he represents Europe. And I eventually added a ‘Ukip duck’ to remind about the Europhobe situation in England.

Hear more what ‘Kak’ has to say about his cartoon (in French!), here.

*For about 20 years, the editorial cartoonist ‘Kak’ has been wearing a mask. During day time, he used to work in the French and European film business (Unifrance, Film France, European Film Promotion, EUFCN…). But at night, mostly for fun, he secretly drew cartoons about the film business in the weekly magazine Le film français, under the alias Kak. A bit like Batman, but funnier.

In 2014, ‘Kak’ became a full-time editorial cartoonist at the French daily newspaper L’Opinion, with the duty of mocking the mainstream news on the newspaper’s front page. So now he has officially have fun everyday. A bit like the Joker, but less scary.

Blog on L’Opinion:

Personal blog:

Facebook/Twitter: @MonsieurKak

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