Jun 25 1956: Article in Chao Foon (Jiao Feng) Vol.16
Notes on portrayal of Niubizi
By Xing Zhou
Modern cartoons have evolved into a kind of secret weapon for psychological attacks on the hearts and minds and they are a tremendous force. A self-conceited Great Dictator, when under the cartoonist's perspective, will need only a few strokes of faint irony to turn his dignity into a laughing stock. In the eyes of a cartoonists, cartoons are like peace doves that freely hover over the sky and then waking people to their artistic conception of truth, good and beauty.
Cartooning in our country is lagging behind others. Talented cartoonists cannot rely on cartoons to make a living and very often as a result of after taking into consideration the impact on the practicalities of expenses for they have to fend for themselves, this definitely affects creativity. What is barely satisfactory is that there are several artists who have defied these difficulties, artists who are not fussy about their jobs, gains and losses and are still standing firm and upright as before, paving the way for a glorious future in the field of cartoons. Niubizi’s creator Huang Yao must count as one of them.
During the Sino-Japanese War, he was in Chongqing, Kunming, Changsha and other places. Niubizi’s educational cartoons have truly become a well-known treasure and household name. His earnest and well-intentioned advice, hoping that the soldiers who were fighting a brave battle at the Front, could have a look at his cartoons, to Ease their stress – to regard the enemy with the greatest contempt and to view the enemy’s weapons as an advantage. He even wanted country girls and old women to have the skill of drawing cartoons. He said: "You can start drawing now!" Any illiterate person in China, even under the troublesome use of fingerprints or seals, can draw circles to represent one’s signature, so those who can draw circles will be able draw a portrait of Niubizi. The large circle represents the face, and the other five small circles represent the eyes, ears, mouth and nose, this is a masterpiece of ingenuity.
Artists have a unique outlook on life and he has a spirit of a religious person who is in harmony with the rest of the world. He was however, unwilling to stay isolated, this time he has gone sightseeing in Malaya, and in a short time, he would be busy visiting people from all walks of life and modestly asking them for advice. He will also be visiting many Chinese schools and radio stations to promote cartoon education. At the same time, he is keen to experience local customs, as well as focus on the key points of landscape paintings and cultural heritage, filling his days and nights with sketching, inspired by his innermost feelings.
I had the opportunity to appreciate the fifty pieces of Malay lifestyle scenes that he had created. They indeed do explain the profound in simple paintings and I was able to see the lifestyles in Malaya portrayed in new light. Many thanks to the trade winds for blowing Niubizi to us and for portraying the true, the good and the beautiful Malaya for us, allowing us to have a deeper understanding of "Overseas Paradise". In Niubizi’s cartoons, the orchids, bananas, coconuts, durians, and the “Nyonya” sarongs, have revealed Malaya’s sentiments in a lively manner. Who would not begin the “Ronggeng” dance after seeing these many mounted pieces of colored cartoons!
Some friends during their chats will inevitably hope that Niubizi would use his intrinsic skills to inject a fresh outlook for the patriots of "Merdeka". Unfortunately, Niubizi could not be personally at the scene of the large gathering of more than a hundred thousand people in Malacca, or else in the brilliant colors under the heavy rain, he would be aroused by the inspiration that could be found everywhere at that time.
For the members of the Chinese society at this time and moment, those who worship money, those who are rich and powerful, those who are "experts" who have no knowledge, those local wealthy landlords that despise intellectuals, those masked hypocrites, those speculators that do not take a stand... are all open game for cartoons.
In countries with high cultural standards, the good and bad of their politicians are highly taunted; their personalities drawn into caricatures. For those influential, powerful and well-bred notables, as long as the cartoons can reflect a sense of humor, the officials will not send the cartoonists to the authorities for punishment, this is a good example of the freedom of speech.
Mr. Huang Yao’s cartoons seem to depict the local traditions and customs closely, but his "Education of a Son" has the appeal that adults are always at a disadvantage in their negotiations with children. How to educate your children? After reading "Education of a Son ", it will leave you in an embarrassing state of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Ultimately, the father and son relationship is one of flesh and blood, the child is fond of the father and so will seek to get close to him and indeed it is partially because the father’s child-like nature. If we talk about the draconian customs of the parent-child relationship where a child is seen but not heard, then a father "sitting respectfully" or "putting on a stern countenance" is simply like becoming a tiger.
The first time we met, Dr. Hua who is in charge of Singapore Overseas Chinese Child Care Centre accompanied Niubizi to my house for a casual chat, my daughter had a good impression of him. She felt that he is an honorable and a resource, but later after listening to his stories, she felt that he is just her lovable Uncle Huang.
For this reason, it made me consider how important today’s cartoons education is. Indeed, learning to read with the aid of pictures is an encouraging way to foster popularity in reading. [In our generation] many children had to hide in order to read “poisonous” picture books. This was because in reality, we lacked books that were more interesting to supplement the shortcomings of official curriculum. The intention for writing this short article is that I really hope Mr. Huang Yao would undertake this great responsibility and widely collect material, so that Niubizi could be the real nanny of thousands and tens of thousands of children.
Huang Yao Foundation Archive Image (c. 1956)
Note: Literary magazine Jiao Feng, published by Jiao Feng Publishing in Singapore. Initially, it was a small size booklet, fortnightly magazine and successively changed to monthly, bimonthly and finally biannual. In November of 1958, from issue #73 onwards it was changed to a monthly magazine. In January of 1959, from issue #75 it began to be printed in Kuala Lumpur. In April of 1959 the issue #78 was published by Jiao Feng Publishing in Kuala Lumpur. The issues #434 - 488 (1990-1999) were published as a bimonthly magazine. By Issue #489 (it progressed to a large format magazine). From December of 2002 onwards, it was a biannual magazine and published by the Malaysian Chinese Literature Center of the Southern University College.