A Linguistic and Literary Analyses of Selected Cartoons on the Novel COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria

A Linguistic and Literary Analyses of Selected Cartoons on the Novel COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria

Asiru Hameed Tunde, Shamsuddeen Bello
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJSVR.2021010103
This article was retracted


The world is currently facing a global pandemic, named COVID-19, which is seriously wreaking a devastating blow on the world healthcare system. Since the first index case was reported in Lagos, Nigeria, in February, the federal and state governments have put measures in place to curtail the spread of the virus in the country. Some of the measures include the constitution of the presidential task force (PTF), provision of isolation and treatment centres for confirmed cases, and pronouncement of lockdown order by the president and some state governors. Amidst these measures, cartoonists (artists, or authors in literary context) have taken to the media to creatively present humorous and satirical depictions of the pandemic and social realities in the fight against it. This study thus analyses the humorous and satirical depiction of the pandemic in the Nigerian context using selected cartoons. These cartoons can be classified as graphic literary texts that can be subjected to different interpretations. The cartoons/texts are selected from the Facebook pages of popular Nigerian cartoonists/authors. A total of 10 cartoons/texts were randomly selected between March and April 2020. The study adopts two models/theories in interpreting the cartoons: Suls's incongruity resolution (IR) model operationalizes linguistic tool of lexicalization, re-lexicalisation, and shared sociocultural knowledge to explicate humour and satire in the cartoons, and Structuralism, which requires human behaviour (as represented in texts or cartoons) to be understood in the context of a broad social system (otherwise called structures) in which they exist. The study observed that the cartoons are not just independent texts or images but that they are products of the Nigerian social condition. It equally revealed that the cartoonists have deployed verbal and non-verbal incongruity to present comical images that show beliefs of Nigerians about the pandemic and the level of the country's preparedness in flattening the curve of the contraction of the virus.
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Introduction And Statement Of The Problem

The Corona Virus Pandemic broke out in October 2019 in Wuhan, an emerging business hub in the Republic of China. It is a highly transmittable and pathogenic viral infection that is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) (Shereen, Khan, Kazmi, Bashir and Siddique, 2020). The disease is codenamed COVID-19 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Since the outbreak of the virus, many nations of the world are recording deaths and high number of infected persons. Nigeria, being the most populous black nation in the world, recorded its first index case on 27th February 2020. The patient, an Italian who had recently arrived Lagos from Europe, tested positive for the virus. Due to the contact with the index case and a few other persons who had travel history to flash point countries, like the USA and the United Kingdom, the number of infected persons increased steadily to 5, 445 as at 16th May, 2020 with 1320 recovery cases and 172 recorded deaths (PTF, 2020). As at 22nd June 2020, Nigeria has a total of 20, 244 confirmed cases, 6, 879 discharge, and 518 recorded deaths (NCDC, 2020).

An initial two-week lockdown was enforced in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun State, and subsequently some other States of the Federation also enforced lockdown to curtail the spread of the virus. The PTF also encouraged people to maintain social distancing and go on self-isolation if they notice or experience any symptom of the disease. While the lockdowns and curfews, as the case may be in some states, are being enforced, many Nigerians from across the strata have expressed concern about it. The lockdown/curfews prevents millions of people from conducting their daily business activities. The impact of the outbreak is becoming apparently devastating and this necessitated defiance to the lockdown order by many Nigerians who believed that hunger is in itself a deadly virus. According to recent statistics, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world; this means that it has significant percentage of its citizens living below the poverty line of one Dollar par day. This reality makes the fight against the pandemic difficult.

Similarly, as the number of infection increases in 35 out of the 36 States of the Federation (Cross River has no index record as at 22 June 2020) and the Federal Capital Territory, it further reveals the dilapidated state of the country’s health system. The country is petite of test kits for the virus; medical practitioners are also working under poor conditions that have exposed about a thousand health workers to the virus. There are equally cases of increase in the number of sudden deaths in some States that could either be traced to the virus or other health conditions. This is in addition to the lack of social contract and accompanied trust between the governments (Federal and State) and citizens. All these issues are what prompted cartoonists to pass across messages that expose Nigeria’s state of affairs on the novel Covid-19 pandemic. Since image(s) and language are vital means of communication, subjecting them to an analysis is a scholarly endeavour. These two are comically combined to create cartoons/texts that are essentially important medium of (re)creating ideas and representing people and issues. They are mostly deployed to evoke humorous feelings in the readers (in theatre, this is achieved through presentations of comical characters and events before an audience). In all, the intention is to make the readers understand events and issues from a particular perspective, although there are layers of meaning that can be realized, even those not intended by the cartoonist/author.

The study is timely and important as it presents the issues earlier mentioned to the general public with a glint of humour and satire (like in comedies) in order to call the attention of the concerned to have a rethink. Aristotle’s notion of catharsis (purification/cleansing that cause change) can be extended to the impact of cartoons in bringing about the desired change in society. To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, no study has delved into the analysis of cartoons in relation to covid-19 from the Nigerian context. Although several related studies on cartoons have been carried out in Nigeria on political cartoons (Medubi, 2003, Adejuwon & Alimi, 2011, Sanni, 2015, Oluremi & Ajepe, 2016, Akpati, & Adegboyega, 2019); sport (Rinehart & Caudwell, 2018); religious (Anis et al 2012), and other genres, none has been conducted on the novel Covid-19 pandemic especially from linguistic-cum-literary perspective.

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