World embraces Pat Campbell's moving response to Christchurch

A simple but powerful image by The Canberra Times cartoonist Pat Campbell in response to the Christchurch massacre has been shared around the world, cutting through the millions of words written about the tragedy.

Pat Campbell''s moving cartoon depicting 50 Muslims in various stages of prayer, representing the 50 victims of the Christchurch massacre. Photo: Supplied

Pat Campbell''s moving cartoon depicting 50 Muslims in various stages of prayer, representing the 50 victims of the Christchurch massacre. Photo: Supplied

Campbell has received messages from Malaysia to Canada to Egypt, as people reacted to the humanity of the cartoon, which uses the iconic New Zealand silver fern to represent 50 Muslims in various stages of prayer, representing the 50 victims of the Christchurch shootings last Friday, March 15.

"I can’t tell you the full reach but it’s spread far and wide," he said.

"Many Muslims have sent me messages thanking me for the image, which has been moving.  I’ve been approached by several parties wanting to use the image for vigils and fundraising for victims. It is a bittersweet thing to happen."

Campbell said the image "formed relatively easily" as he woke the next morning with the shooting on his mind.

"I know the silver fern is an important symbol for New Zealand. Then my mind turned to the image itself, and how the leaves of the fern resembled figures," he said.

Pat Campbell in his Gorman House studio with his stunning response to the Christchurch massacre. Photo: Karleen Minney

Pat Campbell in his Gorman House studio with his stunning response to the Christchurch massacre. Photo: Karleen Minney

"It was a short jump to envisage victims represented, and it grew to Muslims in stages of prayer. I initially drew 49 figures to represent the victims. When the number rose to 50, I added another figure. I felt it needed to represent all those killed.

"I’m hoping that was the only addition I have to make."

Much of the reaction has focused on the simplicity of the image. That it can encapsulate the horror and the humanity of the shootings  without words. That it can also suggest hope, resilience, and that a gentle, loving spirit will endure against even the worst mankind can serve up.

Pat Campbell says he has been moved by the response to his image, but says the whole experience has been bittersweet. Photo: Karleen Minney

Pat Campbell says he has been moved by the response to his image, but says the whole experience has been bittersweet. Photo: Karleen Minney

It takes a true talent to see that potential and realise it. But Campbell, unassuming and humble, much prefers to just let his cartoons do the talking.

He will agree that "the simpler the image the more immediate it is".

"Doing this on Saturday I didn’t expect it to spread. In fact, on Sunday the tweet likes were modest, within the normal range for my feed, a bit better than normal. I didn’t think much of it," he said.

"What I didn’t know was that somewhere along the line, the link to my post had been dropped when some people had shared it and it was growing without feeding back to my Twitter and Facebook, so unbeknownst to me it was getting tens of thousands of hits and likes and shares.

"I’m pleased it is providing solace to people around the world. I’m happy to step back from it and let it have a life of its own."

The silver fern of New Zealand was also projected on to the sails of the Sydney Opera House this week. Photo: AAP

The silver fern of New Zealand was also projected on to the sails of the Sydney Opera House this week. Photo: AAP

Campbell said the image was drawn digitally.

"Normally I spend a while composing, and doing pencil drafts. With this image I knew exactly what I wanted to do so went straight to the drawing tablet," he said.

"There’s been a lot of requests to use it. Normally an image is licensed out, but this is an exception.

"As long as people were printing it out for themselves, or using the image for non-profit, fundraising purposes, they were free to use it, and I posted high resolution copies online.

"Credit should also go to The Canberra Times for its generosity in allowing the distribution of the image."

Campbell, who is already a Walkley-award-winning cartoonist, is already being touted by many people as a likely contender for more awards with the Christchurch cartoon. It's not something that is anywhere front of mind for him at the moment.

"It’s nice of them to say so, but it’s not something I’ve given much thought to at this time," he said.

"I’ve spent time in Christchurch. We have close friends who come from Christchurch. It’s a lovely unassuming city that's endured more than its fair share of tragedies.

"It’s a strong city, and each time it picks itself up. I have sons, and seeing a father and son laid to rest is very sad. The crime was just so viciously gratuitous and mindless and pointless. It’s not right, anywhere in the world."