Hexie Farm (蟹农场) is the name of a series of political cartoons created by an anonymous Chinese cartoonist who uses the pen name “疯蟹” or Crazy Crab. In recent months, his images have been widely and enthusiastically distributed through online channels both by Chinese netizens and fans around the world (despite the fact that “Hexie Farm” appears in a recent list of terms that have been banned on Sina Weibo search). The cartoons have quickly gained a large following for their unique blend of satire, wit, and razor-sharp commentary on current events in China (and elsewhere). All of his images can be viewed on his website.
“Hexie” literally means “river crab” but is also a homonym for “harmony,” a term employed by government propagandists to justify a crackdown on dissent. The cartoonist, who does not publicly reveal his real name, also launched the Dark Glasses: Portrait campaign to show support for activist Chen Guangcheng, who has been held under a particularly stringent form of house arrest in Shandong with his family.
Starting this month, Hexie Farm will be teaming up with China Digital Times to produce a series of cartoons, which will be published each week exclusively on CDT. CDT will translate the cartoons when necessary. To launch the series, we asked Crazy Crab a few questions about his life and work:
1. Can you give us some idea of your childhood and upbringing? What was your family like, what kind of work did your parents do, and what kind of area did you grow up in (rural, urban, etc)?
I grow up in a military family, both of my parents served in the army when I was small. Originally from north China, our family lived in southern China at that time. It was a poor area, my classmates were either countryside children or from army families. I enjoyed walking to school barefoot in summer, like a village kid. When I was in the secondary school, my family moved back to a small city in the north part of China.
2. Your work is clearly heavily influenced by George Orwell. When did you first read Orwell? What other writers or artists have had an important influence on you?
I cannot remember when I first read Animal Farm, probably after university. I like reading comic books. Some cartoonists, such as Charles Schultz, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, Quino have a great influence on me.
3. When did you first begin drawing political cartoons?
I started to draw Hexie Farm since late 2009.
4. Who do you consider to be your primary audience? What has the reaction been to your drawings among your contemporaries/friends/colleagues in China?
Most readers of my cartoons are from China. My colleagues and old friends in fact do not know my drawings, except two of my best friends, but they all pretend that they do not know me on the Internet. I think they are protecting me as well as themselves. However, since I started to draw Hexie Farm, I feel that I have more and more friends day by day. People have forwarded and reposted my cartoons even knowing their accounts would be deleted for doing this. I enjoy exchanging my ideas with them on the Internet. They encourage me to draw and they also try to support me. When I say thanks to them, they reply “to not stop cartooning is the best thanks”. From a certain perspective, Hexie Farm is not only my own work, it survives until today because all of the support from these friends on the Internet, most of them I even do not know, and I have never met any of them.:)
Here is the first cartoon in Hexie Farm's CDT series: To Kill the Spirit of Tibet. It was inspired by Francisco Goya's "The Third of May 1808," which commemorates the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies.