This article is posthumously dedicated to the illustrations and recounts of historical poetry of Abdurahim Alireza, whose life work will endure and shall fondly be remembered. Abdurahim Alireza manifested his insight for the mundane into something everyone could relate to, caricatures.
He seemed to understand that introspection into any societies’ tribulations can be relayed through caricatures and therefore offered society an avenue to express ideas that would otherwise be censored. Knowing that caricatures could serve as an artistic beacon to challenge the limitations on freedom of thought, Alireza sketched societal ills during his time, which enabled him to convey issues that may have otherwise gone unacknowledged, but not unnoticed.
Expatriate workers, abuse of authority, the beginning of the “Mcdonaldization” of Arabia, his artistic renderings knew few boundaries. The subjects may be typical of this country, but the humor is universal.
ever, not without penalty. By today’s standard, public criticism is little tolerated, back in the 80’s it was practically unheard of. This may have led Alireza, in his later years, to dilute his public dissent delineating illustrations that correlated with his recounts of historical poets and their poetry in the column Arabesque, which was published in the Saudi Gazette newspaper throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Alireza’s esteem for historical ﬁgures and poetry was reﬂected in Arabesque; the pre-Islamic Arabian hero and poet, Antarah Ibn Shaddad al-Absi, was a ﬁgure appearing often in his column, along with the tales of the poet Al-Mutanabeh and the travails of Shamshuddin. One can imagine Alireza in his study, before the availability of the internet in Saudi Arabia or well-equipped resources for books, and his continual thirst for literary satiation. Dusting off one of the volumes from his numerous works, acquired during his travels, in his personal library, his raison d’être is revealed…the quest for his next poetic protagonist.
Yet, although Alireza, spent most of his lifetime making people laugh and think through his caricatures in Arab News, or making them nostalgic with his column, Arabesque, in Saudi Gazette, low-proﬁle in nature, much about the man behind the caricatures is shrouded in mystery. Most colleagues and friends remember.
cartoons work on the collective conscience of the global body politic and bring to mind an ancient Chinese method of torture, in which water is made to fall drop by drop with nagging persistence on the head of a victim until each splash assumes deafening proportions. Very effective indeed,” exclaims Ramesh Balan, Assistant Editor-in-Chief, Saudi Gazette.
him for chuckles, “he was always laughing,” according to Khaled Almaeena, Editor-in-Chief of Arab News; and his stories about growing up in Bombay, India, according to Ram Narayan, Associate Editor of Saudi Gazette. From early 1995, Alireza requested to be published under his sobriquet Untorli Untorluk, which means look at me and I look at you, following the success of his column Arabesque. The moniker may have been Alireza’s allusion towards unveiling the truth that masks our society. . Alireza shied away from any attention his literary pursuits may have garnered and chose instead to live in relative obscurity. In his later years, Alireza became somewhat of a recluse, choosing the insights of his books to engaging corporeal company. And, although he ceased to publish anything after the new millennium, his love for caricatures and literature ensued. How Alireza’s PhD studies in science eventually came to ﬂourish into a passion for satirical humor and historical poetry, may forever remain a mystery, but the pioneer that knew how to put the face of a joke on the body of truth, will, however, live on forever throughout history.