What just happened? Am I dreaming? - comix magazine 'Zone 5300' interviews Matches' on her call to fame.
Interview © Natasja van Loon
On Friday January 25 2019, Maia Matches was installed as 'Stadstekenaar' (- City Illustrator) of Amsterdam. The celebrated title seemed self-evident - after all, Maia has been drawing about Amsterdam for a long time - that we sometimes forget for a moment that a Canadian-born cartoonist as City Illustrator of our Dutch capital is not so common at all. Never before has a cartoonist been appointed to this prestigious position.
Maia has lived in the Netherlands since 1999. Since the late-2000's she has been active in the Amsterdam underground scene and became a prominent figure in the capital. She initated the free comic newspapers such as 'Orient X Press' (east Amsterdam) and 'Oeverloos' (north Amsterdam). In 2014 she was held responsible for depicting the perspective of the squatter in 'De Kraker, De Agent, De Jurist and de Stad', an investigative journalistic graphic novel about the Amsterdam squatting culture.
Yet her nomination came as a complete surprise.
"I received a phone call from the City Archives that I could come in for an interview," she says. "I didn't sign up for the job, I was nominated for the position of City Illustrator, a title which lasts for one year - 2019. I didn't know the position existed, let alone what it meant. I thought it was a bad joke. Did they know they had a cartoonist on the phone? But in retrospect it's not only a victory for me, but also for the Dutch comic scene! I think there is not enough attention for comics here. I know from experience how difficult it is to bring comics to the public. There are too few mainstream platforms publishing comics in the Netherlands."
But doors have yet to open for the City Illustrator 2019. "I will draw four spreads for Het Parool, in the weekend editions of January 26, April 27, July 27 and November 27. Dates that remind me of the quarterly tax return," she laughs. “The original drawings will go to the Amsterdam City Archives, where they will be made accessible online – this is the really exciting element of the job, knowing that my work will be preserved for centuries to come.”
We asked her which themes she finds important. "My first spread for the newspaper 'Het Gore Lef' (- The Audacity) tells the story of autonomous 'ADM' residential community, which had a flourishing existence until asbestos sanitation company Koole B.V. rented the site and brutally evicted the people living there. As City Illustrator I will continue to look critically at the Amsterdam policies concerning vulnerable groups. My second spread for Het Parool will be released on 'Koningsdag', a national holiday, and honestly, I don't know a better time to draw attention to the thousands of undocumented asylum seekers in Amsterdam”.