Prominent Arab political cartoonist Khalid Al-Baih is embarking on a cross-country journey in the United States to explore the struggles shared between Arab and American society in his latest project.
The Qatar-based Sudanese artist has teamed up with independent American arts organization Culturunners for an artists' road trip tracing the American Civil Rights Movement from Washington D.C. to Memphis, Tennessee, starting on April 28 and ending on May 5.
Titled "We the People" in reference to the constitution of the United States, the project is meant to explore the shared values between the struggle for upholding human rights in the Arab World and the struggle for upholding civil rights in the United States.
Baih's trip is starting with a round-table at the Arab Center in Washington D.C., where he will discuss and display his work, before he hits the road on a journey that will be filmed for a short documentary about the project.
The journey is ending with a discussion panel with Culturunners founder Stephen Stapleton and Memphis-based artist Lester Merriweather at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which is located at the former Lorraine Motel where American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
Culturunners organizes road trips for international artists in which they travel across the U.S. hosting exhibitions, workshops and talks while collaborating with local artists and journalists. It is a method of cultural exchange aimed at empowering the world's artists and inspiring them to tell stories that transcend borders.
The "2016 Campaign Trail", which is set against the backdrop of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is inviting artists like Baih who can can explore the "interconnected histories and common concerns between the United States and Middle East," and offer "alternative perspectives on the issues being discussed" in the election, according to Culturunners.
Baih, one of the most influential political cartoonists in the Arab World whose work rose to prominence during the Arab Spring, hasn't held back regarding these issues.
His cartoons have already tackled a wide variety of U.S. election topics including immigration, Islamophobia, racism, police brutality, the NSA, the tumultuous events (and candidates) of the 2016 race itself and U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East.
Baih's world-renowned work, which he publishes on his Facebook page Khartoon! (a wordplay on cartoon and the Sudanese capital Khartoum), has always transcended borders, managing to strike a chord with both Arab and international audiences, regardless of the issue's geographic origin.
However, the international issues he chooses to address are often ones that concern the Arab World at heart, such as the refugee crisis and the European Union's failure to handle it.
One of his most powerful depictions of the crisis was a cartoon he posted following the April 2015 Mediterranean disaster when an estimated 800 people drowned on their way to Italy. It shows a black crucified Jesus Christ floating in the Mediterranean while wearing what appears to be a crown made of the European Union's circle of stars.