By Greta Ruffino
“Satire is my preferred method of attack to make fun of authority figures. A good laugh will make you feel better and they will laugh too. A joke may be just one way to win them over.”
Forget 70s and 80s satire, when racist, misogynist and xenophobic jokes were Bernard Manning’s strong suit, to such an extreme that W H Smith refused to sell his autobiography and he was banned from venues. Young artist Madeleina Kay from Sheffield believes that a laugh is the best way to challenge these destructive social attitudes. Together with her white pet wolf Alba, the protagonist of some of her work, she writes and performs satirical songs and creates satirical illustrated books, which reach both adults and children.
Author of two illustrated books that were successfully funded by crowd-funding projects, Madeleina says that it was the Brexit result which started a fire under her. A Landscape Architecture student at the University of Sheffield, she had been involved in community arts workshops and managed to raise funds for an eco-arts project, ‘Moorland Wonderscape’, that allowed disadvantaged groups to participate in arts workshops in 2015, when she felt that the rise in nasty comments and attacks on immigrants and the ‘absurdity’ of the Brexit vote had been enough to sink a ship.
It was at this point that she decided to start using her abilities to turn events and emotions into images and punch lines to raise awareness and to promote tolerance and multiculturalism and fight against policies that have silenced 48% of voters.
“A lot of people are feeling angry and upset but this is often inappropriately expressed as insults and violence. We need to show kindness and compassion and we need to maintain a positive mentality.” She says “If you have something to say, images and songs can be the most effective ways to get your point across. After a long day an image can be the most memorable thing that you take with you when you to go bed. Culture has such an influence on our society, more artists should be committed to use art to change things” She continues.
Her latest comic book, ‘Theresa Maybe’s Adventures in Brexitland’, is a political satire parody of Lewis Carol’s masterpiece.
“With this story I wanted to highlight the absurdity of the Brexit law and I take the piss out of some politicians. Some copies will be sent to some MPs to send the message out of there.” Madeleina explains. “We should celebrate our national culture but we cannot think that we are better than any other culture and we should be reaching out to different groups”
In her story, after Theresa falls down the Brexit hole she encounters a series of bizarre creatures, TweedleBoris and TweedleJonhson, Farage the hatter, and the Hallamshire cat, to mention but a few, and some absurd situations that characterise Brexitland. The upside is that after Theresa’s head has got bigger and bigger, she wakes up glad that it all was a bad dream, at least in Madeleina’s book.
Madaleina has already been verbally attacked by some of the Leave’s supporters “I have been called Nazi and other nasty names because my cartoons are really in your face, they are bright, but I don’t care because they have a broad kind of appeal. Kids like the pictures and parents laugh at them. We need to have a culture conversation with people and inspire them to actually stand for what they believe in. She says
“I am not saying that Brexit is a black and white issue, the EU is not perfect, but I feel that by passing the Article through without any amendments, MPs have completely silenced the 48% of people who backed remain. We feel silenced”
The young artist has also highlighted the ‘great’ job of anti-Brexit activists that through the campaign ‘Stop the Silence’ have raised more than £ 70,000 via crowdfunding to pay for posters to be put up around London, Cardiff and Bournemouth.
As part of these conversations, Madeleina’s first book, ‘Go back to where you came from’, is today read in some schools to promote the integration of refugees and the acceptance of LGBT people. It highlights the cruel reality of refugees who are forced to leave their homes and travel in dangerous conditions across the sea to escape from the terror of the war and the struggle to integrate into a new culture.
“Alba inspired the story because she is a rescue dog.” explains Madeleina “The family who could not look after her took her back to where ‘she came from’. The story is designed to promote attitudes of kindness and compassion towards refugees forced to leave their homes, friends and families because it’s too dangerous to live there, but it goes two ways. It is about acceptance in the widest way possible of diversity and LGBT people . In fact, there is a twist at the end. Alba’s new family has two homosexual fathers so she will learn this new reality and they will happily accept one another.”
Madeleina has sent part of the proceeds to a charity that welcomes and provides hospitality for refugees and asylum-seekers.