Save Our Souls magazine: a mirror of turmoil, tragedy and complexity

Regular readers of Private Eye will be familiar with illustrator David Ziggy Greene’s “Scene and Heard” comic strips, in which he documents events, such as political protests, as a fly on the wall through his trademark portraits. However he cannot only be found there: independently-published and crowdfunded, Save Our Souls was founded and edited by Greene.

The magazine, though based around Greene’s compelling concept, features contributions from a wide and diverse array of writers and artists. Each issue is a vividly colourful item that contains a smorgasbord of artwork and writing on various political, social and cultural subjects. As a medium of curation, it proves that there is still a role for print in modern media.

Though the magazine being stunningly impressive aesthetically is what strikes at face value, itequally excels with its journalism which coexists with artwork that highlights and strengthens the impact of the writing. Save our Souls reflects the adage that a picture can paint a thousand words.

Likewise, a picture that accompanies words can bring reality to life significantly better than words alone. This is most apparent when the magazine addresses the topics of conflict between peoples, the prejudice that motivates it and its aftermath.

In the debut issue, Ersin Karabulut’s comic strip “Monochrome” is a dystopian fantasy where humans are literally divided between black and white, and coloured, with hatred towards the rainbow people being stirred up by a black and white fascist politician. This is an effective metaphor in a Brexit Britain where xenophobia has become an epidemic.

This is followed by Mark Stafford’s “Accentuate the Positive”, a comic strip literally as black as its humour - with scenes such as drowning refugees being accompanied by text of positive thinking platitudes.

the artwork becomes a mirror that forces us to reflect on our common humanity

In contrast to the dehumanisation satirised by Karabulut and Stafford, in the second issue Dan Peterson’s “Saving of Life of Sea” is an illustrated reportage of a Royal Navy rescue of refugees from Libya in the Mediterranean, with portraits of refugees by Peterson and quotations on why they made the perilous journey from their war-torn country.

Joseph Stalin allegedly once said that the death of a mass of people was merely a statistic. So Peterson’s work exhibiting the faces, names and life stories of refugees - with descriptions of murder and religious persecution - is a humanising snapshot that reminds us of the individual personhood of every survivor, and fatality, in the refugee crisis.

Alpha Kamara’s article on “Ebola the Dictator” is a dispatch on the devastation caused by the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, and the liberation brought to its people by the eradication of the outbreak of the disease from late 2013, which doctors from the UK and other Western countries have volunteered to take the fight to.

Kamara returns in the second issue with a broader dispatch from West Africa which provides insight into how the combination of crises like Ebola, extreme poverty and failing states are fuelling the recruitment agenda of terrorists and extremists such as ISIL and Boko Haram.

It highlights that young men are turning to these groups not just out of religious or political fanaticism, but also the similar sheer desperation that is driving the refugee crisis. This dispatch is illustrated by the face of a child solider attached to a map of the West African nations, encapsulating what Kamara has witnessed.

Also in the second issue, Richard Johnson witnesses combat in “Fieldwork”, with war correspondence from Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and the Central African Republic. These are accompanied by his sketches of soldiers in battle and rehabilitating from injury in hospital, physically and psychologically maimed by brutality like improvised explosive devices. Like Kamara’s dispatches, Johnson’s correspondence acknowledges that those who fight in wars are not just warriors, but can also be victims in their own context.

Backing up the messages of the writing and reportage of the journalism, the artwork becomes a mirror that forces us to reflect on our common humanity - as well as the turmoil, tragedy and complexity of its condition. But it also teaches us about how compassion can improve it, and help us to understand it, to makes us realise the meaning behind the name. Save our Souls indeed.

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