Cartoons for youth: A workshop promoting freedom of expression

by Sinduri Sappanipillai

Bringing a novel experience to a group of young men and women, the Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF), recently organised a cartoon workshop in Colombo. Fifteen youths were selected for the workshop from the SDJF youth network and following an open call for applications.

The cartoon workshop was held in Colombo and the training was conducted in both Sinhala and Tamil languages by Mr. Ruwan Tharaswin and Mr. P.J. Kanivumathy, two of the veteran cartoonists in the Sri Lankan print media.


S.A.M. Rilwan from Anuradhapura, one participant said that he found cartoons as the best mode of expression. “Cartoons express an idea better than an essay with many words,” he said. He added that the workshop was important to him as it gave him more insight in to the field and said that he hopes to continue his freedom of expression through cartoons.

The workshop was not just about polishing participants’ artistic skills. Applicants were selected based on their passion to analyze, criticize social issues, those prevailed within the communities they lived. This workshop was to promote cartoons among youth as an effective tool for freedom of expression.

Imasha Perera, one of the speedy artists in the workshop said that through this workshop she learnt how to convey a message in a simpler format via cartoons. “To me cartoons would be the most prominent method to convey a message to the society,” she added. As an activist for the rights of the LGBT persons she hopes to continue her talent for cartoons to promote equality in the society.

To Ashen Goonewardena, this is the first cartoon workshop he had a chance to attend. “I was not a professional cartoonist. But with the experience of the workshop I hope to continue to develop myself to a professional level,” he said with great enthusiasm.

As the aim was to encourage youth participation in freedom of expression and sensitivity towards social issues, the SDJF was concerned in selecting youths from a cross section of the society. Youths from Colombo, its suburbs and outstation townships such as Kandy, Anuradhapura and Jaffna positively responded and attended the workshop and ended up with marvelous creations.

Ridmi Rangika Amarasinghe, an undergraduate student of the University of Kelaniya, was very happy being able to gain quite a volume of knowledge through the workshop. “My subjects are Public Relations and Media Management and with the knowledge I gained at the workshop I found that there are many chances where I can use cartoons when dealing with public,” she said. She hopes to use cartoons in her profession as well in her personal capacity.

The two trainers, of this one day workshop, explained the history of cartoons and caricatures and taught participants tactics used in expressing social issues through cartoons. Participants were allowed many hours to draw, sketch, erase and redraw. They were given the full freedom to decide on topics and were given individual attention by Tharaswin and Kanivumathy – the two trainers.

Those cartoon creations can now be viewed on the ‘iVoice’ website ( – the online multi-media platform of the SDJF. Cartoons are uploaded on a regular basis. Participants will continuously contribute to ‘iVoice’ with their cartoon expressions – highlighting the soft, yet strong youth point of view of the current social trends.