Habka: Libya's first manga comic book

Habka: Libya's first manga comic book
Culture: Libyan artists have launched their country's first manga comic book, which is now available in Benghazi and Tripoli.
2 min read
18 August, 2015
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Fate did not allow Tawfik Bensaud and Sami Elkwafi, the young Libyan comic artists, to see their dream become a reality.

Extremists assassinated both young men while they prepared to launch the country's first comic book to combine both traditional styles and Japanese manga.

However, their friends Noureldin Elhonie, Mansor Duffani and Ahmed al-Sharif finished the project after their murder, and launched the comic book, Habka.

The first issue, well received among Libyan comic fans, contains a number of graphic stories, with tiles such as "Super Grannies" and "Shadow Heroes".

The success of Habka is partly due to its treatment of social affairs through humour and artistic expression, which has become the last resort for many Libyans whose country is currently engulfed in a brutal conflict.

The comic book received funding from the Libyan Transition Initiative, a recently formed civil society group.

"Publishing the comic book required getting funding to execute the project and to distribute it in Benghazi and Tripoli, which we've been able to - despite the unavailability of transport between east and west Libya," said Anas Bengazzi, an adviser on the project.

Prior to its launch, the Habka team organised a manga and comics workshop in the Libyan city of Benghazi and the Tunisian city of Sousse to attract young people under the age of 27 who would like to contribute.

While the project team ensured a high degree of artistic freedom of expression, they set strict guidelines against the promotion of violence, racism and belittling religious beliefs, said Bengazzi.

Mohamed El-Baaly, the organiser of Egypt Comix Week, believes that the launch of a comic book is a positive step for Libya's art scene and could increase the space for free expression in the country.

"Comics have a special ability to express many issues in innovative and attractive ways," said Baaly. Habka will open new horizons for comic book fans and help develop this artistic genre, he added.

Since the publication of the first issue, Habka has been inundated by contributions from aspiring artists, and the project team is currently preparing to hold more workshops, in addition to launching a website.