"Historically, art has always been at the forefront of social change"

Partizan Creatives produces comic books infused with social and educational commentaries. Formed by Jose Encinas (‘the illustrator’) and Nick Wood (‘the writer’), and based in Phnom Penh, Partizan’s goal is to bring the joy of reading and an understanding of key messages to a wide variety of people

Franziska Meissner
June 21, 2013
"Historically, art has always been at the forefront of social change"
Partizan Creatives for SEA Globe. As the Cambodian government guns for development at any cost, accelerated deforestation could leave the Kingdom with little more than 10-20% of its original forest cover by 2030, with devastating effects on the environment and human population.

What is your main mission and who is your target group?
(JE) Our mission is to produce original and dynamic comic books that combine great writing and beautiful images to support development organisations, especially in low literacy environments. Comics are a unique medium capable of transcending generational and social groups. Perhaps best of all they can play an important educational role when there is limited access to books or the internet.

How did you come up with the name?
(NW) For us, using the word ‘Partizan’ represented a kind of paradigm shift in communicating in low literacy environments. Too often, development organisations rely on verbose documents or unimaginative photographic and video outputs to communicate really simple messages. We want to help change that.

How crucial is teamwork in creating a comic?
(JE) Our roles are very different, but in comics one side rarely works well without the other, so we view our relationship as a pure collaboration. Besides, we got tired of talking to ourselves. In terms of images it’s often hard to be one’s own art director and for writing it can be a challenge to be one’s own editor.

Does art provide an opportunity for more subtle criticism?
(NW) Comic books often afford the writer and illustrator an avenue to make subtle criticism because the format does irony so well. It allows one to be a bit subversive with the dialogue and play with perceived norms visually. In our 10th Anniversary comic for Better Factories Cambodia, we poked fun at a lot of people but it was very good natured.

How much research do you do before you accept a client?
(JE) We want to write and illustrate for areas we have an interest in, and understanding of, so our first rule has to be: Do we believe in what we are being asked to produce a comic book for?  Research is integral to that process of accepting a commission because it has to mesh with our own personal values.

What about recognising negative aspects? For example, Better Factories Cambodia has been criticised recently…
(NW) The reality is that at the moment we don’t have the luxury of producing comic books as social commentaries purely for the sake of it. Therefore, highlighting a client’s perceived failings doesn’t really factor into our projects for now. We want to be honest in what we depict so there’s always going to be lines we don’t want to cross in terms of supporting something we don’t believe in… We fully endorse the organisations we produce comics for but, for sure, one can pick holes in almost any development organisation if people want to take that route.

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