For four decades after the country’s independence from Britain in 1970, Laisenia Naulumatua, known as Lai, was Fiji’s preeminent political cartoonist, capturing the volatile history of the nation in panels he sketched for the Saturday edition of the Fiji Times and the Sunday edition of the Daily Post. Lai’s cartoons afford an idiosyncratic overview of the events and agents, large and small, lighthearted and serious, that shaped the nation’s character in the closing decades of the twentieth century. Seldom driven by the livid savagery of the firebrand cartoonist, Laiadopted the casual bystander’s wry approach to representing public events and personalities and included in many of his panels a scrawny black cat to convey the sentiments of the hoi polloi. He tackled social and political ills certainly, but without ill will. In its espousal of the attributes of restraint, equanimity, and moderation, and in its preference for surface levity over piercing gravity, Lai’s oeuvre promotes the middle path of slight and cautious adjustments to daily political and social ructions. This essay discusses Lai’s work in relation to that of his peers and antecedents, locally as well as internationally, and in the context of established theories of the political cartoon.


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pp. 97-126
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