Bahgat Osman 1931 - 2001
When death strikes someone as fun-loving as cartoonist Bahgat Osman the news is often
received with a degree of incredulity before it eventually sinks in and sadness takes over.
Many were aware of the fact that Bahgat was seriously ill with cancer and that he had
been badly shaken by the death of his wife, Badr, few months ago, but they continued to
hope that one day he would rise, miraculously cured, to regale his admirers once more
with his wit.
Though Bahgat attained celebrity as a result of the great appeal his political cartoons held
for the Egyptian public -- with a few strokes of his pen he had the knack of giving voice
to the opinions of the normally silent majority -- his earliest ventures were hardly successful.
Indeed, following his graduation from the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1954, the only position
he could find was that of art instructor at a private school of Mansoura.
It was during this period that he offered his first caricatures to Dar El-Hilal. They were
promptly rejected. He then took them to Rose El-Youssef where they were as promptly
accepted in the belief that, in the words of Rose's editor-in-chief Ihsan Abdel-Quddous,
"if they were refused by Dar El-Hilal, then they must be very good," .
For the next few years Bahgat continued teaching in Mansoura, completing cartoons for
Rose El-Youssef at night. Then, in 1957, when Khaled Mohieddin established Al-Messa,
a newspaper with leftist leanings, Bahgat was hired as one of the two caricaturists working
full-time for the publication. He remained at the paper until 1959, when he returned to
Rose El- Youssef to join the team of artists who contributed so much to the fame of the
weekly magazine Sabah El-Kheir. In 1964 Bahgat was hired by Al-Musawar. For much
of the 1970’s, finding himself at loggerheads with Anwar El-Sadat's regime, Bahgat lived
in Kuwait, only returning to Egypt in the early 1980’s when he joined the opposition
Bahgat published several collections of caricatures, the most famous being Hokouma wa Ahali.
Bahgat Osman died in Cairo on 3 June. He is survived by two sons, Hisham and Walid.
Al-Ahram Weekly Online
7-13 June 2001 - Issue No.537