Creating awareness to the Namibian youngest audience with cartoons – poaching

As you are reading this, millions of species worldwide are being killed or taken from their native habitat. Poaching poses a big threat to many animals like elephants and rhino, as well as to smaller and more incomprehensible creatures, like lizards, snakes and pangolins. The topic on poaching can at times be complex and difficult to explain to the young children. But TOSCO and PAKO teamed up to make learning fun while explaining the importance of conservation and looking after Namibia’s natural resources and wildlife through cartoons.

Why animals are poached

Some animals are captured alive to be sold as exotic pets. Some other animals, on the other hand, are slaughtered for a commercial value, such as food, jewelry, décor or traditional medicine. 

The effects of poaching

Poaching has various effects; the most direct impact is extinction resulting in a natural imbalance. Every single animal has a specific function in the environment. By removing these animals, an imbalance of the natural environment is created.

Another negative effect of poaching is on rangers charged with protecting wildlife. Poachers are mostly armed, leading to the possibility of rangers getting wounded or gunned down.

Efforts to stop poaching

Besides providing on-the-ground protection, countries like Namibia, have developed programs to convert past poachers to rangers. There are organizations that are promoting sustainable alternatives to poachering to help people earn a fair living.   

Several laws have also been put in place to penalize illegal poaching.

But to further the importance of stopping poaching, TOSCO and PAKO joined forces to raise awareness amongst Namibians children on the importance of looking after the environment and its wildlife. In partnership with international artists, like Juan Bellorin, they create exciting comics which makes the message more accessible and fun through storytelling.

“We believe that teaching the next generation at an early age will make them become proactive adults who are concerned about the welfare of the environment they live in”. 

The  Venezuelan lawyer and artist, Juan Vicente Bellorin met up with us to  tells  his story of how he became a comic creator after graduating from law at the “Universidad de los Andes”, and how he decided to hang out his tie and take the brushes instead to create stories. 

Tell us about your early influences in the art world

“When I was little, I discovered “He-Man and the masters of the universe’s mini cartoons”. I used to play with them following the story at the back of the box. Since then I liked to draw, and I have not stopped doing it.

Although my brother was my earliest influence, since I learned a lot watching him drawing, I consider myself self-taught. My brother is a multifaceted artist, he went through many stages and drawing styles. But the drawing that interested me the most was the comic, the BD. With him I learned many things, and then I improved some others.”

Namibia wildlife by J. Champaña

Law and the art are not closely related, tell us a bit about your transition?

“My parents were always very coherent people regarding the socio-political aspect of the country. Since I was little I listened to their discussions about the situation in the nation. At the time, I didn’t understand much. At some point, my parents advised me to study law to understand what was happening in the country and the social transformation that our society was undergoing.

For a few years, I put aside my passion for the art and the drawing to focus on my studies in law. These studies led me to understand that the current situation in the country should change, that we, the young people should organize ourselves to do something about it. So, together with a group of young Venezuelans, including my sister and brother, we started doing political activism.

I feel connected with the art and the drawing in general. It has always been in my thoughts. Drawing is one of the simplest and most effective artistic methods of expression that exists. Perhaps the most basic and at the same time the one that can transmit the most in terms of emotions.

The fact of creating a story that can transmit emotions with only designs is something that I am passionate about it. And the BD is this, it is not only drawing, but telling a story. This is how I gradually returned to the drawing from my law studies and I have not stopped since then.”

How did growing up in a social / communist country affect your art?

“Mérida was quite a cultural and artistic city at the time. Therefore, it was a perfect place to nourish yourself with different artist experiences and expressions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I never stopped drawing while I was growing up.

When the country started the socialist era, drawing became more complicated. Materials such as paper, colors, inks and watercolors were limited. This situation surely made it more difficult to continue developing art in general.

However, in moments of political and social crisis, artistic expressions are necessary. People seek to express themselves in some way to show their discontent and they find in art, the perfect way to do it.

Nowadays, many Venezuelan artists, who have been affected directly or indirectly by this situation, have begun to amaze the continent with their art. Their problems have become a source of inspiration.”

Which artists have influenced your artistic life, and who are you currently following?

“Throughout my career, there have been several periods and styles that I have developed. At the beginning, I started by drawing the classic American comics style. Superheroes, muscular characters and beautiful women. At that time, I was following Joe Madureira, a writer / comic book creator, who combined his western’s comics influences with Japanese manga. But with each stage, there is an artistic evolution, so I began to look for other sources of inspiration, even outside the comic books and BD world. Now in France, museums, cathedrals, architecture, and the entire city have influenced my drawing.

Today I follow Corto Maltese, a series of comics about a sailor adventure. It was created by Italian designer and screenwriter Hugo Pratt in 1967. And it is one of the most famous European comic series of the 20th century.”

What is your creative process like?

“First, I have a clear idea of what I want to show in the comic and the objective behind it. Then I picture myself at the end of the story and from there I begin to develop it. 

I immediately continue with the storyboards. At this stage, the quality of the drawing does not matter much, but where the characters and images are located, the text, etc. I repeat several times this stage until the story takes shape and the expected result is achieved.”

Right now, you are working on a project with TOSCO and PAKO, can you tell us about it?

“Yes, of course. I have been invited to participate in the creation of different thematic series around worldwide issues together with a French artist, Alice Colson. These series are going to be addressed to children, and we are going to create comics about human-wildlife conflict, pollution, the protection of natural resources, etc. The idea is to create awareness thought storytelling

These stories in particular interest me. It goes hand to hand with the philosophy of life that we speak and that we are putting into practice. And at the same time, it’s challenging, because it’s not something that I’m used to doing.”

What do you want to achieve with this project?

“First of all, I would like to transmit a message. And this message is regarding the change of conscience that is required to change the current situation of our planet. If we do not do something now, then, it will be too late. 

Second, it’s to raise awareness among young people (children and adolescents) about the importance they have to preserve natural resources, not only in Africa, but also in the entire world.

For me it is lovely to know that my drawings can inspire children to either start drawing and to tell a story through drawing, or to conserve their natural resources. Either one would be a good reward.”

Written by Daniel Zambrano and Luze Kloppers

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