Covid Cartoons – Suite of Works from the ‘Covid Series’ by Holger Faber

Wolfgang Cortjaens | 25 March 2021

In Germany, the Covid-19 pandemic first upended everyday life one year ago. The first lockdown in the Federal Republic started in March 2020, and today politicians are still searching for ways out of the second one. The restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic have left their mark on society. In this series, five head curators at the Deutsches Historisches Museum reveal how the coronavirus pandemic has been documented in the collection. The Prints Collection of the DHM is home to a substantial stock of important political caricatures spanning several centuries. It has just received a highly welcome addition: the ‘Covid Cartoons’ by Holger Faber, which approach this distressing subject in a refreshingly humorous way, as Dr Wolfgang Cortjaens, custodian of prints at the DHM, explains.

The far-reaching restrictions imposed on social life during the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic severely impinge upon all aspects of our daily lives involving social interaction. Comprising 90 original drawings and prints, the collection that amateur cartoonist Holger Faber (born in 1973 in Hettenleidelheim in Rheinland-Pfalz) recently gifted to the DHM is a witty commentary on the lockdown in the spring of 2020. Faber, a software developer by day, has been a keen draughtsman from youth, and started drawing cartoons of people in his region who were particularly affected by the closures – shopkeepers, cinema operators, hairdressers, and owners of restaurants and bars. He distributed them free of charge, ‘in recognition of their work’ and as ‘additional advertising’ on his social media account (@hoixcartoons on Instagram). ‘The response was astonishingly positive and often very moving’, says Faber. Thanks to this enthusiastic feedback from press and public, he received numerous further requests. In the meantime, his ‘Covid series’ had been published in book form (Hoix Cartoons 4: Viral). Several original sketches for the book are also among the works gifted to the DHM. The cartoons were shown on a digital display on an approach into town in Grünstadt, again to raise publicity. With these interventions, the cartoonist addresses social issues (for example in the form of a virtual climate strike or by staging events for the benefit of self-help groups like Lebenshilfe) but he is also keen to engage with his local region, the Leiningerland.

Cartoon for the Virtual City Wall Festival of Freinsheim, Holger Faber, 2020 © DHM

Cartoon for the Virtual City Wall Festival of Freinsheim, Holger Faber, 2020 © DHM

The centrepiece of the gift to the DHM documents local customs of this historic holiday and wine region whose infrastructure is strongly geared towards tourism: Thanks to Faber, the Stadtmauerfest (City Wall Festival) in Freinsheim on the German Wine Route, which had been cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, was celebrated as a virtual event on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and as a ‘living cartoon’ with real-life participants and conversations. The 36 original drawings of snub-nosed festival participants, which the artist had colourised and composited into a poster announcing the event with the hashtag #VirtuellesStadtmauerfestInFränsem, are now in the collection of the DHM.