Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Islamic Superheroes

The use of art as a tool for social change is a reality that we've had some difficulty articulating. Intuitively, we know it's there, but how to express?

And we're not just talking about using art to express opinions or stands - certainly, the art of social realists played and continues to play a colorful role in political/prayer rallies and protests.

But, how does art - as and largely by itself - really measurably affect culture, change social and political behavior, tangibly improve lives and outlooks, or promote peace?

One man, Naif Al-Mutawa - a passionate businessman that we met at the Skoll Global Forum on Social Entrepreneurship earlier this year - now provides us with an excellent example. He created The 99, a comic-book series based on characters that each personify one of the 99 qualities that the Koran attributes to God.

Expectedly, it met early resistance in places like Saudi Arabia, but his proactive efforts to ensure respect for Islam, as well as the backing of a major Islamic bank propelled it to success across the Middle East.

A recent Time Magazine article now validates his success, and quotes Jim Kuhoric, the purchasing director at Diamond Comic Distributors (The 99's licensing agent in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.), who thinks Mutawa is onto a winner. "Not only are the stories entertaining and the art extraordinary," he says, "but the 99 have also enabled others to understand a wider vision than what they are normally exposed to through the medium, and helped to promote cultural understanding and acceptance."

P.S. We emailed Naif and now are in (very exploratory) talks to possibly help to create a Filipino superhero to join The 99. How cool would that be? :-)

No comments: