Q&A | Rodrigo de Matos, Cartoonist: ‘I think that the press here is relatively free’

An exhibition showcasing a decade of work by Portuguese cartoonist Rodrigo de Matos was inaugurated on Monday night at the Portuguese Consulate-General in Macau.

The exhibition, which is open to the public until the end of the month, includes 35 unique cartoons published from 2007 onwards that were  published in the Macau Daily Times, Ponto Final and Portuguese weekly Expresso.

“There are some works that I finish and I immediately know are ready to be published,” Matos told the Times during the inauguration ceremony. “These works are a collection of having that moment when you know that what you have done is great.”

Macau Daily Times (MDT) – What was the impetus behind this exhibition and what does it show?

Rodrigo de Matos (RM) – This exhibition has a lot of cartoons. One section, the biggest part of the exhibition, has 25 cartoons – all from Ponto Final. This was because Ponto Final was celebrating its 25th anniversary [this year] and so they proposed this exhibition. I told them that I am also celebrating the 10th anniversary of my career this year. So [for the second section], I said that I would choose one cartoon per year from each of my 10 years. I chose the one that I considered the best from each year.

MDT – This exhibition premiered at The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival. Why bring the exhibition to the Portuguese Consulate General?

RM – Actually, for a long time, the Portuguese Consul General [Vítor Sereno] has been challenging me to organize an exhibition here. But I needed to go after the [financial] support for the printing and the framing of the cartoons. So, we had been delaying and delaying until the literary festival this year. When Ponto Final [the organizers of the festival] said that they wanted to hold an exhibition this year of my works, I said okay, but the Consul General has been asking me for a long time so let’s see how I can put these two events together. This is the same exhibition in two moments.

MDT – One cartoon in the exhibition is an award-winner, published in Macau Daily Times. What is the story behind it?

RM – I started collaborating with Macau Daily Times in 2012. Representing 2014 in the exhibition, the cartoon I chose was from Macau Daily Times because it was also an award-winner. That received third prize in the World Press Freedom International Editorial Cartoon Competition in Canada. This competition has deadlines for submissions and sometimes I forget [laughs]. This was the first time that I participated. It was almost an accident. This competition was organized by a famous cartoonist who sent me an email to say: ‘We are having a contest with the theme of technology and privacy, and we saw a cartoon that you did which would be perfect.’ If an organizer is telling me to participate then I have to!

MDT – Which of your works has received the strongest reaction from the public?

RM – From this collection that I have here, I can say that the Ronaldo cartoon [after Portugal won the European Championship in 2016] received a very strong reaction. It is my most viral work so far, having received over 77,000 shares on social media.

MDT – Are there any topics in Macau that you have avoided in your work?

RM – No. I don’t think so. Since the beginning, when I started, I have tried to pull the rope as much as possible to see where it would break, and it never broke! I have never had a situation where a newspaper has told me that my work cannot be published. They have never told me: ‘Let’s not touch that.’ I think that the press here is relatively free, considering the specificities of the Special Administration Region. On the other hand, I am not sure how this would work in a Chinese newspaper. I don’t know how free I would feel [working] for a Chinese-language newspaper, if I wanted to publish something like these.

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