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Death of a Mexican filmmaker, delivery man for a living

PARIS: From his real name Menouar Merabtène, Slim, press cartoonist, is the creator of the first heroes of Algerian comics. Very popular in his country, Slim has exercised his talents on many media: posters, albums, press cartoons, advertisements, logos, cartoons…

After studying at the Ben Aknoun Institute of Cinema and Television, Slim went to Studio Filmow Rysunkowych in 1964 – a Polish animation studio – as part of the practical internship he had to do. “I studied the camera and the image while continuing my practice of drawing”, he tells us. During his career, the designer of the most popular comic strip in Algeria has made animated films for Algerian television as well as advertising films. We owe him many creations of posters for North African cinema (Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco).

“Drawing saved me from an unhappy childhood. When I was little, drawing allowed me to have what I wanted: an electric train, a luxury car…”, Slim told Arab News in French. As a youngster, Slim was what today would be called an “influencer”.

“When I told my stories, people listened to them.” He specifies that, in his time, drawing was an escape for young people. “Many young people asked me for advice on how to embark on this path,” he recalls.

Today, thanks to advances in audiovisual technology, it is much easier to draw and create. “In my time, we drew with the pen and the inkwell as well as with pencils. Today, I draw on screen using Photoshop. It’s a thousand times better, because it allows you to do the staging. I create my character, Bouzid, I duplicate him, according to my inspirations, in various versions by simply clicking on the pencil on the screen, I add color to it… It’s marvellous”, he declares to us.

The “Little People”

Slim’s drawings tell of his daily life and that of the “little people” he meets. “I spent time in cafes observing the reaction of readers who read my albums. I understood then that I had things to say, to tell. He explains to us that he was then confronted with censorship. “I didn’t know there were things you couldn’t say.”

Zina and Bouzid, the characters from Slim’s comics (photo provided)

Slim’s comic is characterized by the creation of two iconic characters: Bouzid and Zina. “For Zina, I was inspired by Algerian women, these veiled women who wear the haik. The haik m’rama is a silk fabric held at the waist which covers the body; it is a traditional veil that the city women of Algiers have worn since the end of the 19th century with their traditional sarouals and stiletto heels. I found it very beautiful and very feminine. I created Zina as I saw her, very sexy, beautiful and smarter than Bouzid, who is a boor. Zina slows down Bouzid’s impulses which are sometimes brutal”, he explains to us.

A prolific artist

Comic book albums, film posters, press cartoons, animated or advertising films: Slim is prolific. He has collaborated with numerous titles in the Algerian and French press, such as Algérie-Actualité, Charlie Hebdo, Le Monde, L’Humanité and Alger-Info. “I started doing press cartoons in the 1980s for the weekly Algérie-Actualité. To escape censorship, all he had to do was make little winks in these creations. “I had limits; you had to be clever to get around them,” he reveals.

Slim has always been interested in what was happening abroad. During his travels, he draws inspiration from the work of his colleagues from Charlie Hebdo and, more generally, from Belgian and French cartoonists. “The Angoulême Comics Festival brought me a lot. It allowed me to get to know the big names, especially my French and Belgian colleagues. I learned a lot from the great cartoonists, like Siné, whom I frequented in 1972, when I was doing political or entertainment cartoons. Such an event allows the authors to confront their ideas, to continue to draw, to create, to reproduce, to put the words in the mouths of the characters, to make them cross stages, good or bad according to the scenarios.

Slim, a regular at the Maghreb-Orient des Livres

Asked about the importance of integrating comic strips into the Maghreb-Orient des Livres programme, Slim told us that he is a regular at this event: he has taken part in it since 1995. “I meet friends of the comics from France, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This meeting allows us to see their evolution, to follow their work. People who tell stories meet, it’s wonderful. And it is also an opportunity for authors to meet their readers.”

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