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Over the span of a year, I listened to the voices of the Amsterdam - the people living in the ADM free-zone community, the sex workers of the Red Light District, the undocumented migrants and transgender people. I translated my research into 4 illustrated reportages which were published in the weekend edition of newspaper Het Parool - read by thousands of Amsterdammers and others nationwide.
Click on the hand-drawn titles below to see the full illustration in all their glory!
To get a better impression of each of the 4 topics, open the tabs below. Topics are listed in chronological order, as are the illustration links listed above.
There is no distinction between normal and crazy in a free zone. They are adventurous places, like the former ADM, where people design their lives how they wish to live them, forming close-knit communities in which diversity and tolerance reign supreme.
The ADM community, established for 21 years on the 42-acre habour of west Amsterdam, was permanently evacuated on January 7, 2019. The United Nations insisted on several occassions NOT to evict the area, but these cries for help remained unheard in City Hall. The site was to be immediately "swept clean", ready for a “business-ripe” future.
Newly established on the site is asbestos remediation company, Koole Maritiem BV. Consequently it was this company who demolished the remains of the ADM residents: homes, sculptures, tools and other personal property were destroyed completely. Niels Kooijman (owner of Koole BV) declared shortly afterwards that deconstruction was necessary to prevent retaliation of the ADM people.
A few families were offered social housing from the municipality, but most of the ADM community had no choice but to move to the slippery fields of Amsterdam Noord, with the agreement of moving out after two years. Of the original nine houseboats docked in the west habour of ADM, zero are left; a calculation former alderman Udo Kock (Port/Finance) had counted on.
As a result of the ban on squatting in 2010, no further free zones can be created. Rebellious spirits are being driven out of the city, leading to increasingly more monoculture, the new normal, a call to be nothing more than ordinary. But stop coming into contact with anything out of the ordinary, and you will start to believe it doesn’t even exist. That makes for an incredibly sparse world.
Published in Het Parool January 26th 2019.
Published shortly after release on the ADM Amsterdam website - it's an honour, really.
Alderman Rutger Groot-Wassink (Social Affairs/Refugees and Undocumented migrants) gets ready to carry out his 24-hour shelter idea to accommodate 500 refugees in under procedure. The closure of Amsterdam's winter shelter on April 1, left 45 young men (mostly from Eritrea) out in the cold. The municipality of Amsterdam refuses to create space: "The key is literally in the back pocket of alderman Meliani" - Don Ceder. Safety net Code Red came to the rescue and the group spent ten nights in ten different churches around the city, creating media attention.
Groot-Wassink received mostly resistance from the various city districts during neighborhood consultations. People are not convinced of his proposed 24-hour shelter idea as a "humanitarian solution". For more than a year the City of Amsterdam has been promising "peace and quiet" to undocumented people with "future perspectives”.
If Amsterdam is known for its compassion, why is the criteria to be eligible so unclear? Living for a year and a half in a 24-hour shelter, including a little spending money and guidance relies on factors such as the “safety” of the country of origin, and being "gay enough".
This subject does not only concern Amsterdam. In the House of Representatives, the Hague, former state secretary Mark Harbers argues that the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service) can definitely handle the growing stacks of applications. And after visiting the detention centers in Libya, Harbers determined it was a passing mark (a “five”) which is why, according to him, there is little reason to create security for thousands of refugees who have been left ignored and unable to find shelter in europe.
In the week running up to national holiday “King's Day”, a demonstration took place on Dam Square – "Don't let refugees drown" (April 21). This was an enlightening moment in the process of reporting on this topic. Support refugee initiatives because no one is illegal!
Published in Het Parool April 27th 2019 (King's Day)
Less than 1% of transgender people regret their transition and yet it takes a long time for other people to be convinced of it. Applying for a transition at the Amsterdam UMC - formerly VUmc - have increased more than fivefold, in 2017 it went from 150 to 750 applicants. Nowadays there are more than two years waiting list before the first visit to the gender clinic.
The diagnosis of gender dysphoria has since been removed from the psychiatric diseases chapter of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), and according to former PRIDE ambassador Dinah Bons, there is no reason to make people wait that long. She would like to see that people receive care through “informed consent”, for example through by the Trans Led Clinic in Amsterdam, run by transgender people.
Trans Led Clinic is open once a month and helps around 50 people in one day. Doctor Adrie van Diemen has all the credientials to help everyone get advice faster and they can prepare the required statement to adjust your gender to official documents. There are fundamental steps to avoid depression resulting from lack of help and/or the suicidal thoughts brought by the discrimination transgender and non-binary people experience every day.
In a debate in the Hague regarding the evaluation of the Transgender Act (initiated in 2014), minister Dekker (Legal Protection) insisted on the importance of history and therefore one must proceed to handle citizens who request to change their gender registration in the Basic Persons Registration (BRP) with “utmost care”. Dekker therefore insists that young people under the age of 16 should firstly go to court, yet it doesn't seem to occur to him that he thereby undermines the right to self-determination. Groenlinks and D66 continually try to attain these rights, but ultimately this is another situation where cisgender people decide what is good for transgender people. Nothing about them, without them!
Published in Het Parool July 27th 2019 (opening weekend PRIDE festival).
Alarm bells went off at the beginning of November when the Amsterdam Museum announced the opening of an exhibition by an artist who is principally opposed to sex work. In the summer of 2019, mayor Halsema raised the issue of window workers the Red Light District, with an emphasis on reducing mass tourism and "vulnerable women exposed in windows". Jimini Hegnitt's exhibition confirms the general idea that sex workers are victims without atonomy over their bodies. The Prostitution Information Center (PIC) launched a boycott action, but the damage is done: Nr.1 Tourist Attraction remains on show for the expected four months.
In the meantime, an even more grim political development surfaces: the “Sex Work Regulation Act” (Wrs). This new law requires sex workers to have a permit, which means that they are registered with the government with a high chance that they will subsequently be refused a permit and/or registered personal information is leaked to police. Under the “Pimp Ban”, sex clients, bookkeepers and drivers are subject to one year in jail. The Wrs presents itself as an excellent opportunity for many political parties and Christian organizations to prohibit sex work without remorse.
The residents of the Red Light District (who have an opinion too!) have had enough of the nuisance mass tourism has caused in the neighbourhood. They let it be known by holding a dress up party in the Town Hall. While sporting colorful wigs, dick hats and hippie glasses, they protested with chique protest signs which read: "Residents have priority".
Twitter account “Red Light United” was established behind the windows early 2019, allowing some 110 window workers to make their voices heard. They demand a ban on taking photos of sex workers in the Red Light District and request more enforcement by police in the area. Halsema indicates that she has no opinion about the matter. Rightly so, because how can the mayor form an opinion about sex work without engaging in serious discussion with sex workers?
Published in Het Parool November 30th 2019.
The Amsterdam Museum took interest and included an enlarged version of the comic in the debate room of exhibit Nr.1 Tourist Attraction. A personal column was published on the Amsterdam Museum blog.
Gewoon - de mensen en de stad tekenen, en dan niet van gisteren of morgen! Nee, de mensen en stad van nu - vandaag! Als 6e Stadstekenaar van Amsterdam heb ik vier verhalen getekend voor Het Parool. Hier, eindelijk voor het eerst... alle vier strips in de serie zijn te lezen online! Klik op de handgeschreven titels bovenaan om door gestuurd te worden naar de afbeeldingen, in z'n geheel!
Wilt u meer weten over mijn onderzoek naar de mensen van Amsterdam? Klik op de onderstaande titels om door gestuurd te worden naar de BLOG afdeling:
Interviews over Stadstekenaar zijn waren gepubliceerd in o.a.:
Overigens - elke Stadstekenaar-strip is verkrijgbaar als A2 risograph print - gesigneerd en genummerd, uiteraad! Laat je geld verbranden in de webshop!