Team Open

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Khalid Albaih

He wanted his cartoons to empower his region, so he empowered people to share them.

Khalid Albaih is a Sudanese political cartoonist based in Qatar. His cartoons are a frank commentary on life in Sudan, the Arab world, and the whole globe. Khalid’s goal is for his messages to be heard, which is why he lets anyone republish his cartoons under a Creative Commons license. When Khalid started using CC, his art spread around the globe — instantly.

Since then, Khalid’s work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, and Al Jazeera. It was even graffiti’d in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring revolution. In Khalid’s words, “People should support Creative Commons … if they want to get their work to as many people as possible.”

Khalid Albaih initially wanted to lock away his art from those who didn’t credit him. “As an artist, I want my work out there, but I want my name out there as well,” explains Khalid. When Bilal Randeree, a CC Qatar affiliate member, introduced Khalid to CC licenses in 2010, he had a solution to both problems. With the requirement of attribution on all of the Creative Commons licenses, it was the easiest way for Khalid to share his art freely, reach a mass audience, and retain his name on his art.

Khalid is a Sudanese political cartoonist based in Qatar. He self-publishes Khartoon! — its name a twist on the capital city of his home country, Sudan. His cartoons are a frank social and political commentary on life in Sudan, the Arab world, and the whole globe.

As a political cartoonist based online, sharing is essential for Khalid. As a region undergoing massive social change, sharing is essential for the Arab world.

“Breaking down the misunderstanding and bridging the gap between east and west and creating a dialogue is my main focus with creating my art. I try to push boundaries with my art and try to reach new people.”

Khalid’s ultimate goal is for his messages to be heard. And after releasing his works under CC, his messages were heard. Khalid’s work spread around the world — instantly. “I’m very surprised that it happened so quickly. I didn’t know what to make of it. Other artists see how successful it is right now, and how far it has spread. I don’t think I need to say much more [about CC licenses]. It shows for itself.”

Just a few years after starting to use CC licenses, Khalid’s work has been shared by journalists, organizations, and even graffiti’d in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring revolution. He has been featured worldwide in publications like The Economist, New York Times, Al Jazeera, BBC, and The Atlantic, as well as the Edge of Arabia gallery in London, and done art exhibits in countries like Sudan, Austria, Egypt, and Italy — just to name a few. Next up, Khalid is working on a graphic novel about the history of Sudan, its identity, culture, and traditions.

“In spite of all the censorship [in the Arab world], I still manage to be here, and I think CC is a big part of that. My biggest accomplishment is being where I am today, even with the surroundings that I have.”

Despite this success, Khalid must continue to work full-time in order to stay in Qatar and works as the Head of Multi-Media in Qatar Museum Authority’s Public Art and Exhibitions. His cartoons are a side project. “If anything happens to my residency here, I have to go back to Sudan where I could be dead in a week […] Every time I enter Sudan, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s something you come to terms with,” says Khalid. “I see it happening every day.”

It’s this stark reality — and love for his region — that keeps Khalid in Qatar, even though in another country, perhaps a different region, Khalid could easily pursue cartoons full-time with his stream of offers and commissions. But Khalid isn’t keen on moving:

“We’re trying to fight in this region. They’re trying to keep all the power and knowledge to themselves. People should support Creative Commons if they care about what they’re doing, and they want to get their work to as many people as possible; if they care about collaborating with people all over the world together and coming up with something beautiful… this is what we’re supposed to be doing — what the internet was made for.“

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Creative Commons License

Khalid Albaih (Team Open) was written by Meryl Mohan for Creative Commons. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The illustration of Khalid Albaih was created by Luke Surl. To the extent possible under the law, Luke Surl has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights under the CC0 Public Domain Declaration.