Dante Besong is a self-taught Cameroonian visual artist. He began to express his passion for the art through drawings in his early childhood and in college, he drew cartoons for the school’s quarterly magazine.
He was later selected to represent the University of Buea during the University Festival of Art and Culture (UNIFAC) 2004. In 2007, He collaborated with other plastic artists in a joint art workshop/exhibition in French Cultural Centres around Cameroon. He has also worked with Canadian wildlife conservative artist, Daniel Taylor, under the auspices of ERUDEF. He worked as a cartoonist for The Post newspaper for a couple of years before fully engaging in graphic design. He continues, however, to do cartoons, paintings and graphic art.
How did you get into cartooning?
I was into cartooning as far back as my elementary school days. I recall drawing a lot back then. But my very first caricature was of my class three teacher. She didn’t find it funny. Needless to reiterate that there was no escaping from her wrath. I later started doing a lot of cartoons in college. I became the cartoonist of the college quarterly magazine.
Who are the cartoonists who inspire you?
I like the works of Jonathan Shapiro “Zapiro”, the South African cartoonist. The guy is so good and he masters the art.
Have you ever been in trouble because of your political cartoons?
When I started working as a cartoonist for The Post newspaper, drawing at a professional level felt awesome. The thing with satirical cartooning, however, is that not everyone finds it quite delightful. Though I never suffered any physical aggression, there was a time a stalker kept making anonymous calls, threatening me to stop what I was doing, if not, I was going to get killed. These are his words: “Dante, don’t play with us (politicians), we are snakes and we can finish you”.
What do you think about Cameroonian comics?
I think Cameroonian comics have their relevance in shaping and representing socio-political and economic issues in Cameroon. Nyem Popoli is one cartoonist who has shown tenacity in upholding this virtue. There are so many cartoonists out there doing a great job. It is important to note, however, that Francophone Cameroon is quite predominantly represented in the art. Thus, it will be worthwhile to encourage more aspiring Anglophone cartoonist to join the trend.
How do you balance painting and cartooning; do you feel one of them is more demanding?
It’s really not easy giving complete attention to painting and cartooning, especially as I have a full-time job as a commercial graphic designer. I still manage my way around. They are a part of me and I cannot kill this passion.
Is there any taboo subject for your cartoons; an area which is off limits?
I don’t really have a taboo subject. But generally, I tend to be a lot more discreet with religious subjects. I find them too sensitive.
What does your drawing process look like?
Basically, I start with a pencil sketch, print it out in ink, scan and do composition with Adobe Photoshop when necessary.
What project are you currently working on?
At the moment, I am working on my paintings. I want to do a series of them before the end of the year, collaborate with other artists and definitely participate in exhibitions.