S'porean gets threats for 'racist' NYT cartoon on India's space programme

S'porean gets threats for 'racist' NYT cartoon on India's space programme

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 Mr Heng's 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". Inside the room were two men reading a newspaper on India's Mars Mission.

Yesterday, The New York Times' editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal posted on the paper's Facebook account that they had received complaints from "a large number" of their 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 last night, Mr Heng said that his social media accounts had been flooded on Sunday, a few days after the cartoon's publication.

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 that he had researched India's successful Mars Mission and found out that it had humble beginnings.


He drew inspiration, he said, from something he read and saw, where a bullock cart was 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 studied business at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

His doodles have been published in The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, New York Times 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.

"I always try to be respectful in portraying issues.

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

This article was first published on Oct 7, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.