1944 Pat Keely Propaganda Map Poster of Japan as Octopus grabbing Southeast Asia

Indie Moet Vrij! Werkt en Vecht Ervoor! [The Indies Must Be Free! Work and Fight For It!] - Main View

1944 Pat Keely Propaganda Map Poster of Japan as Octopus grabbing Southeast Asia


Japan: A Grasping Octopus.


Indie Moet Vrij! Werkt en Vecht Ervoor! [The Indies Must Be Free! Work and Fight For It!]
  1944 (undated)     29.5 x 19.5 in (74.93 x 49.53 cm)


This powerful 1944 Patrick Cokayne Keely World War II propaganda image presents Japan as a menacing octopus with grasping tentacles extending throughout Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the East Indies.
A Closer Look
The use of an octopus to represent Japan is ironic, as Japanese artists in the early 20th century were quick to embrace similar imagery, ultimately based on the c. 1870s work of British artist Fred Rose, to criticize Russian imperialism. Here, it has been turned against them. Keely's poster presents the height of Japanese expansionism before its early gains in Asia began to be pushed back by Allied forces. The Dutch government-in-exile, based in London, backed this poster in the hopes that the former Dutch colonies, along with their neighbors in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, would push back against the Japanese occupation. Although, this did happen in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, the former Dutch East Indies suffered brutally under the Japanese, with millions dying of starvation in forced labor camps. Eager to push onward toward the Japanese Home Islands, Allied forces largely bypassed the East Indies, and both occupation and fighting persisted well after the Japanese surrender. Dutch authority was restored after VJ Day, but by this time, a strong nationalist and anti-Dutch sentiment had developed in the islands, and Indonesia was recognized as independent 5 years later in 1949. According to Philip Curtis in War Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps 1900 - 1950,
While the propaganda message of the map is clear, the exact purpose of the poster and whether indeed it was ever actually distributed is more problematic. It may be that when this was commissioned and printed in 1944, it was in anticipation of the imminent Allied liberation of the Dutch East Indies. The intention would have been to distribute it to the re-emerging Dutch colonial authorities and the hopefully grateful peoples of the newly liberated territories. If this was indeed the plan it turned out to be seriously wrong on both counts. Firstly the Americans decided to bypass the Dutch East Indies and push straight on towards Japan itself. ... Secondly the Indonesians themselves having now experienced subjugation from both the Dutch and the Japanese ..., were determined upon their own independence which they declared within five days of the Japanese surrender.
Publication History and Census
This image was drawn in 1944 by Patrick Cokayne Keely for the Dutch government-in-exile. It was printed by offset lithograph in London by James Howarth and Brother. It is recorded that 10,000 were printed, but it is unclear if the posters were actually released. Today, the piece is extremely scarce. We are aware of editions both in Dutch, as here, and in English. There are a few examples in institutional collections, but this map is rare to the market.


Patrick Cokayne Keely (January 14, 1901 - October 26, 1970), also known as 'Patou', was a British graphic illustrator best known for his vibrant World War II (1939 - 1945) propaganda posters. Keely was born in Nottingham, England. He was a self-taught artist whose work is distinctive for its rich bold color blocks and simple straight-forward messaging. He designed posters for London Transport and Southern Railways. During World War II, he worked mostly for the British Ministry of Information and the Dutch government-in-exile. Little else is known of his life. He died in London in 1970. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Laid on linen, poster style. Stabilized abrasion, likely old fold wear, crossing the sheet horizontally just north of Luzon.


Australian War Museum, ARTV10465. Black, J., A History of the Second World War in 100 Maps, page 213, illus. 214. Cornell University, Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, 1318.01.