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UNC Global Hosts Exhibition Featuring Acclaimed Political Cartoonist from Equatorial Guinea

August 8, 2019
UNC Global

Drawing of suits with light bulbs as heads and colorful flags in the background "Trazando Estados," by Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé

The Art of Resistance, an exhibition featuring the work of world-renowned graphic novelist and political cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé, opens at the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 19. The exhibition is hosted by UNC Global, in conjunction with the African Studies Center, and on display through December 13.

For more than a decade, Esono Ebalé’s artwork has criticized the long-ruling, oppressive government of Equatorial Guinea, his country of origin. Through his art, he addresses topics including corruption, authoritarian control and extreme poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

As a result of his piercing criticisms, Esono Ebalé became persona non-grata in Equatorial Guinea, living in exile in Paraguay from 2011 to 2017. Upon his requirement to return to Equatorial Guinea to renew his passport in September 2017, Esono Ebalé was detained and imprisoned. As news of his imprisonment spread, fellow political cartoonists and other artists from across the world began a virtual collective under the hashtag #FreeNseRamon to protest and call for his release. Using social media, these artists were able to bring widespread visibility to this injustice and inspired others to contribute their own art in support of Esono Ebalé.

The movement for Esono Ebalé’s release was coordinated by EG Justice, a human rights non-profit organization with ties to Chapel Hill, and their efforts garnered attention from many organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Notable participants in the #FreeNseRamon movement included Ann Telnaes, an editorial cartoonist at The Washington Post; Matt Wuerker, a cartoonist for Politico; Plantu, chief editorial cartoonist for the Le Monde; and Pedro X. Molina, a cartoonist and editor at El Alacrán, a Nicaraguan newspaper. The persistence and dedication of the movement pushing for Esono Ebalé’s freedom culminated in his release in March 2018.

The Art of Resistance showcases artwork Esono Ebalé created prior to and during his imprisonment and original artwork created for the exhibition, as well as the art by those who advocated for him during his imprisonment. The exhibition touches on themes of human rights and freedom of speech, as Esono Ebalé’s story and art implore audiences to see the right of expression as an essential human right, and his work illustrates the dangers often faced by those who speak out against injustices.

A free public reception celebrating the exhibition will take place on September 24, 2019, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This exhibition is hosted by UNC Global and is organized by the African Studies Center and Global Relations in collaboration with EG Justice. Additional support is provided by the following UNC-Chapel Hill units: the Center for European Studies; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Curriculum in Global Studies; Humanities for the Public Good Initiative; and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

Exhibition contact: Ingrid Smith, manager of events and exhibitions, UNC Global, ingrid.smith@unc.edu

Media contact: Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations, UNC Global, kbowler@unc.edu, 919.962.4504


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