To his workmates, Nation Publications Limited cartoonist is a shy and pensive character less associated with his vocal creations.
When he enters the newsroom, he gathers his drawing materials and gets down to business without much ado. The only time the pint-sized artist exclaims is when he is soliciting cartoon ideas from his workmates.
It is this coy enigma who was voted the best political cartoonist in the just-ended German Embassy exhibitionâ€”thanks to a Point of Order depiction of Satan taking over the running of the forex-strapped country.
Going through the gallery of 20 competing articles from NPL and Blantyre Newspapers Limited publications, cartoonists would be deemed critical to the system in power.
â€˜I used to admire Binguâ€™
But Mawera, a 26-year-old admirer of South Africa’s upfront satirist Zapiro, says his career was partly powered by heartfelt admiration for the late president Bingu wa Mutharika and government politburo 10 years ago.
According to the artist, his first sniff at the press job came in 2005 after he submitted pencil portraits of president Bingu wa Mutharika, the thenÂ vice-president Cassim Chilumpha and presidential spokesperson Hertherwick Ntaba at the defunct Guardian newspaper, owned by Mutharika’s daughter Duwa.
“After tendering the handmade posters, I had to wait until 2006 before The Guardian accepted my job application,” says Mawera, who spent two years at theÂ publication. During his stint, he was responsible for drawing Odzimwe, Odala and Sportoon.
Two years later, Mawera joined Nation Publications Limited, filling the gap left by the late Brian Hara of Town and Country Rat and Zabweka fame.
The award-winning Point of Order strip replaced Town and Country Ratâ€”and on a lighter note, Ayobe provokes the stitches philanderer Zabweka used to arouse.
He also produces Jese and Biyazonke for NPL’s fortnightly newspaper Fuko.
All his creations are worth millions of words. Where writers tell a long story, he delivers the punch line right away.
According to the German Embassy, a good editorial cartoon does not only compress a complex situation into a panel of visual art without much explanation, but also serves as a biased commentary trying to affect the viewer’s opinion.
“Caricatures and political cartoons are never neutral. They exaggerate, they accentuate, they are critical and opinionated, and quite often they are simply over the top. And that’s why we like them!”Â says the embassy on the website dedicated to the exhibition which was inspired by the urge to pay respect to the art form of political cartoons in the country.
Usually poking fun on prominent personalities, political cartoons are never short of fans and critics.
According to the website, Germany’s most satirised figure, former vice chancellor Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1974-1992) used to patronise exhibitions and buy cartoons based on his follies.
On the contrary, State House press officer Albert Mungomo recently issued a charged press statement threatening to prosecuteÂ media house for violating the Protected Names and Emblems Act by cartoonising the president.
â€˜I am proud of Point of Orderâ€™
Despite the hassle, Mawera is proud of Point of Order which makes a laughing stock of serious flaws decision-makers take for granted.
“Cartoons are not only about entertaining, but also educating and informing the nation. I was born an artist and am happy to contribute to nation building through Point of Order,” he says.
Originally from Machinjiri in Blantyre, Mawera says he discovered his drawing prowess as a Standard One pupil at CCAP Primary School in Dedza where he grew up. He has six siblings, including Guardian illustrator Henderson and Maxwell who holds an unpublished collection titled Zondi.
Like most local artists, he has no formal training and traces his humble start to sketches of cars, human beings and wild animals.
He says at Nchisu Secondary School in Dedza, he carved a following with portraits of reggae mordeniser Bob Marley, former South Africa leader Nelson Mandela and other celebrities. But it was the late Vic Kasinja of Taxina strip who inspired him into the fast lane of cartoons.
Having won the maiden cartoon award, he hopes to release a comic book as Kasinja did with his Joza and Pewani.