Singapore artist gets threats over India cartoon

Singapore artist gets threats over India cartoon
Singaporean Heng Kim Song, whose work has recently come under fire for allegedly poking fun at India's foray into Mars, said that he had also received positive comments for that particular cartoon.

He has been drawing cartoons for three decades, for publications around the world including the International New York Times (NYT).

And not for one moment did Singapore cartoonist Heng Kim Song expect to receive threats as a result of one of his works.

All that changed over the past week when one of his cartoons, published in the International NYT on Sept 28, drew the ire of readers for alleged racism.

The cartoon depicted an Indian man with a cow knocking on the door of a room marked "Elite Space Club". In the room were two men reading a newspaper on India's Mars mission.

On Monday, NYT editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal posted on the paper's Facebook account that the paper had received complaints from "a large number" of readers.

He explained that the artist's intent had been "to highlight how space exploration is no longer the exclusive domain of rich, Western countries".

He apologised for the publication of the cartoon, noting that Mr Heng used images and text often in a provocative way to make observations about international affairs.

"Mr Heng was in no way trying to impugn India, its government or its citizens."

When contacted by The New Paper, Mr Heng said that his social media accounts had been flooded on Sunday.

He said: "I started receiving many posts and messages on my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. They were abusive, curt and filled with vulgarities. One of them even said they wanted to tear me apart."

Mr Heng said he had researched India's successful Mars mission and found out that it had humble beginnings.

He said he had drawn inspiration from something he read and saw about a bullock cart being used to transport a satellite part in the 1980s.

"I was trying to portray India's engineering success, despite the odds stacked against them," said the political cartoonist, who had studied business at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

His doodles have been published in The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, NYT and Newsweek.

His works have been syndicated internationally since 1991 and he has garnered top awards in cartoon competitions organised by the United Nations, the Italian Museum of Political Satire and Caricature, and the Society of Publishers in Asia.

On the criticism he has faced, he said he was shocked and saddened, adding: "I always try to be respectful in portraying issues.

"In future, I will be more cautious about culturally sensitive representations."

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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