2016 Oak Fellow: Khalid Albaih

Khalid Albaih

The fellowship “really introduced me to a lot of great people who are willing to support different causes around the world. And also reintroduced me to me, really.”

Political Cartoonist

Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist from Sudan, came to Colby College in the fall as the 2016 Oak Fellow at the Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights. Albaih uses his daring, often biting cartoons to champion freedom of expression and democracy in the Arab world, while criticizing Western Islamophobia and U.S. practices including torture and drone attacks. 

Alibali discovered early on that cartoons combined his love and curiosity for art and politics. “For me politics was the reason why I didn’t have a home,” said Albaih, who had to leave Sudan with his diplomat father and activist mother in 1989.

Oak’s selection will showcase the powerful role of the arts in promoting human rights.

“We received applications from amazing artists around the world, but Khalid stood out because his work has inspired so many citizens inside and outside the Arab world to demand better behavior from their governments and from one another,” said Associate Professor of Government and Director of the Oak Institute Walter Hatch.

Albaih draws simple but evocative images that are primarily displayed online. Many of those images have gone viral, earning him international recognition. Huffington Post mentions him first in its list of the world’s leading Arab cartoonists.

During the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, Albaih’s images were turned into stencils and reproduced on city walls in Cairo and Sana’a. He acquired thousands of followers on his Facebook site (“Khartoon!”—a play on his artistic medium and his former home in the capital of Sudan). His work also has appeared in exhibitions in Vienna, London, Montreal, Detroit, Bahrain, and The Hague and has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times and Al-Jazeera.

The son of a diplomat and a social justice activist, Albaih was born in Romania and grew up in Sudan and Qatar, where he now lives. He received a B.A. in interior design engineering from the Ajman University of Science and Technology and worked as a graphic designer and multimedia specialist before becoming head of installations and design for public art in Qatar Museums Authority.

Albaih, who helped create the Khartoum Contemporary Art Centre, is now unsafe in his homeland, where his satirical cartoons have upset members of the authoritarian regime and precipitated threats on his life.

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