The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) announced on May 31, 2022, that it will no longer host Saba Moeel, the NFT artist behind Pink Cat, as a featured guest at this year's show. The hybrid in-person/virtual event is set to take place from June 17–19, 2022, at the Toronto Reference Library.
"TCAF is rescinding its invitation to Pink Cat, also known as Saba Moeel, due to code of conduct violations," says TCAF in their statement, available in full as a May 31 blog post on the TCAF website. "At the time of this invitation, the organization was unaware of Moeel’s online conduct, plagiarism, or allegations of tracing. We apologize for programming and promoting this artist."
TCAF originally revealed on May 28 that Pink Cat would be a featured guest alongside creators listed in the first and second round guest announcements. Upon doing so, members of the comic arts community took to social media with concerns about TCAF's decision to raise up the NFT artist. Several community members shared examples of Moeel's remarks disparaging Trans people and indie artists, capitalizing off Black personhood and culture, as well as evidence of Moeel plagiarizing and tracing Tank Girl art.
"As a promise to our community, we will use this as a learning moment as we move forward as an organization, and will re-examine the checks and balances we currently use to process our programming decisions," states TCAF.
Although the released statement echoes sentiments of the organization's standing "Conduct & Harassment Policy" which states that TCAF is a "harassment-free space" and those "creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment" are "unwelcome at the festival", it remained unclear to many members of the comic arts community if TCAF's decision to uninvite Pink Cat took into account concerns about Moeel's transphobic remarks, as seen from screenshots of tweets dated June 19, 2016, and February 26, 2017 (an Advanced Twitter search no longer results in the tweets shown in each screenshot).
"Yes, these violations include her past tweets, and tweets she made over the past few days responding to members of the comics community," says TCAF Marketing Manager Cali Platek over email, in response to our question about whether the reference to "online conduct" in TCAF's statement was a response to concerns about Pink Cat's past tweets relaying transphobia. "For the record, TCAF does not tolerate any discriminatory behaviour, and this includes racist and transphobic comments."
We also asked if TCAF's statement addresses concerns that Pink Cat allegedly appropriates Black culture for profit, a concern based on an admission Moeel made about Pink Cat being Black in a 2019 profile published by the platform Women Sound Off.*
"The statement doesn't address community concerns that Pink Cat allegedly appropriates Black culture for profit, although it does address Pink Cat's online conduct, plagiarism, and allegations of tracing," says Platek over email.
"TCAF admits that we made an error in judgement when inviting Pink Cat to be a featured guest at this year's festival. We made a mistake, and we do not take the concerns of our community lightly. As the festival is just over two weeks away, we'd like to bring attention back to the talented creators that are involved, and focus on making TCAF's programming and creator exhibition the best it can be," concludes Platek.