A master of the sharp-tipped pen – Heiko Sakurai

Copyright: Heiko Sakurai

Heiko Sakurai, who was born in 1971 in Reckinghausen and lives in Cologne, is considered a master of the sharp-tipped pen. His particular field is political caricature, which he produces regularly for various German daily newspapers. Sakurai characterises his daily work as “pointed commetary.”

Keeping up with current news is an important component of his daily work, as he must fulfill the editors’ subject guidelines within a matter of hours. Sakurai’s studies have proved useful here, since he has degrees in history and political science in addition to German literature. In 2006 and 2007, he lectured on political caricature as an instructor at the University of Münster, which among other things dealt with the issue of: “What characterises a good caricature?” For Sakurai, it must have a message, if possible with informative, educational content. It should be well-crafted and of course, a joke or a punch line helps. The advantage of caricature is that it “can reach another reading audience than written commentary.” Here lies Sakurai’s great artistry, humorously skewering international political events with a few strokes and at the same time presenting subtle, sophisticated commentary.

Right at the start of his career, Sakurai was distinguished with the 1996 New Talent Award for Caricaturists. In 2007 and 2009, he received the Rückblende Prize, the German award for political photography and caricature. Sakurai also works as an illustrator. He has done illustrations for Misereor-Media children’s books, drawn the Nibelungenlied as well as the French verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac, and has worked for the children’s television programme “Die Sendung mit der Maus” (i.e. the programme with the mouse).

Master of the political comic

In 2009 , in cooperation with the journalist Miriam Hollstein, the political comic Miss Tschörmanie arose, in which the duo, with humour and a wink of the eye, caricaturise Angela Merkel’s biography and her rise to the German chancellorship. It is the first biographical comic about a German head of government. The writer Hollstein got the idea for this project two years ago when she came upon a comic about Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of the French government. With Miss Tschörmanie, she succeeds in reducing highly complex political processes to a few dialogues or sentences, which are in turn ideally matched by Sakurai’s drawings. 

“Merkel’s mainstay is her eyes”

Sakurai has been doing caricatures of Mrs. Merkel for a few years now. The caricaturist bluntly characterises her hair style during her tenure as General Secretary as “a disaster.” In the comic, Merkel goes to a prominent Berlin coiffeur after her electoral victory and reluctantly gets a new hairdo, which has since become her trademark. According to Sakurai, her eyes are another one of her trademarks. Her “typical Merkel” overcast gaze tells him above all that, “we cannot look into her soul.” Is that perhaps why the first woman Chancellor of Germany was so often underestimated, -and still is?

On the comic’s cover, almost as in reality, Mrs. Merkel stands on the winner’s podium and reaches out her hands in the air towards the victory emblem, while political opponents at her feet, such as Roland Koch, Edmund Stoiber, Gerhard Schröder, Oskar Lafontaine und and Wolfgang Schäuble grudgingly look up to her. Miss Tschörmanie is a witty and factually informative comic that traces Angela Merkel’s unusual career in a most entertaining way.

Matthias Schneider is a cultural scientist, freelance cultural journalist and curator of film programs and exhibitions about comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
January 2013

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