On a perfect Cape Town night, on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron, French Ambassador Aurélien Lechevallier bestowed the award of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) on a one-of-a-kind cartoonist: Zapiro.
"What is the shape of truth?" French Ambassador Aurélien Lechevallier asked.
The green-striped medal wouldn't pin into the thick leather of Zapiro's jacket, but it didn't matter: the Order had been bestowed upon Zapiro, and the cartoonist, now a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters, following in the steps of Johnny Clegg (1991), William Kentridge (2013), Gregory Maqoma (2017) and Zanele Muholi (2017), was visibly moved.
It wasn't just the decoration - established in 1957, the Order of Arts and Letters is awarded by the French ministry of culture "in recognition of significant contributions to the enrichment of the arts and literature in France and abroad"; nor was it just about the ceremony, the tradition of speeches (both brilliant tonight) and a joie de vivre palpable in the Champagne glasses lifted and santé! said a little louder than usual.
The emotion was palpable in the air, partly because of the memory of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who lost...