Zapiro, was born as Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town in 1958 and was not always a cartoonist.
Zapiro started out studying architecture but quickly switched to Graphic Design as he could no see himself in architectural career.
While in the army he refused to bear arms and became active in 1983 in the newly formed United Democratic Front.
His arrest under the Illegal Gatherings Act caused some consternation in the SADF and his being monitored by military intelligence while also participating in the End Conscription Campaign, and designing its logo.
|His work as a cartoonist began in earnest with a wide range of political and progressive organisations. When the newspaper South began in 1987, he became its editorial cartoonist. He was detained by security police in 1988 shortly before leaving on a Fulbright Scholarship to study media arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York. New York was an eye-opening experience where he studied under comics masters Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman.He returned to South Africa in 1991 and with Story Circle produced educational comics including Roxy (Aids education), Tomorrow People (democracy education) and A Trolley Full of Rights (a child abuse prevention comic later used by UNICEF elsewhere in Africa).He was editorial cartoonist for The Sowetan from 1994 – 2005 and appeared in the Cape Argus 1996 -1997. He has been editorial cartoonist for the Mail & Guardian since 1994, the Sunday Times since 1998 and since September 2005 also appears three times a week in Cape Times, The Star, The Mercury and Pretoria News.
He has held solo cartoon exhibitions in New York, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and many in South Africa. Has also exhibited in numerous group shows locally and internationally.
He has been an invited participant and speaker in cartoon events in Cameroon, Botswana, Namibia, Australia, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the USA. In South Africa he has been a presenter and run workshops for a wide variety of organisations and educational institutions. He attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland 2003-2006 as one of a group of invited cartoonists.
Resulting from hard-hitting cartoons about South Africa’s former deputy-president and newly appointed ANC President Jacob Zuma, he is currently being sued by Zuma for defamation. The amount Zuma sued him for was initially R15 million; later reduced to R10 million. It appears to have been reduced again … the case continues … .