The Taiwan Brides (“Les Mariées de Taïwan”), by Clément Baloup
In this 3rd volume of his Memories of Viet Kieu (“Mémoires de Viet Kieu”), the socially-engaged cartoonist continues his investigation into Vietnamese expatriates, this time by following the journey of women using marriage to create a better life for themselves in Taiwan.
At a cultural crossroads
After studying applied arts, Clément Baloup enrolled at the School of Fine Arts in Angoulême, where he specialised in comics. At the age of 22, he and his housemates created a collective called “Stinking House” ("La maison qui pue"), through which he published his first works, often related to themes of travel.
From Autumn in Hanoi (“Un automne à Hanoï”) (2004) to The Taiwan Brides (2017), he published mixed works, combining adventure stories and personal accounts, before expanding his purview, trying his hand at teaching and the curation of comics exhibitions.
Arranged marriages on a massive scale
In his series Memories of the Viet Kieu, Clément Baloup writes about the peregrinations of different groups of Vietnamese expatriates.
In the third volume, The Taiwan Brides, he focuses more closely on a mostly-female diaspora, through the character of Linh. He describes how, since the 1990s, a “marriage market” between Vietnam and Taiwan has been established: Young women from modest rural backgrounds are promised a life of luxury by marriage agencies. Having given in to the siren song of financial security, many of them are severely disappointed.
A work of research
Having undertaken part of his education there, Clément Baloup is familiar with Vietnam, which is also his father’s country of origin. With The Taiwan Brides, he put this understanding to work in service of a sociological investigation. He collected testimonials from 24 women and two men, to which he added interviews with journalists and social workers.
Alternating black and white panels, which recount these exchanges, with colourful drawings devoted to the dramatic narrative, he blends documentary and fiction into poetic and socially-engaged work.
Clément Baloup’s work, like his personal history, is full of border-crossings. The Taiwan Brides, which he created in Vietnam, marks another step in his knowledge of the country. After living in Corsica and Tahiti, Cannes and Guyana, and before settling down to his life as an author in Marseille, he travelled to explore his Vietnamese roots at the Fine Arts Institute of Hanoi.
This work, which is anchored in a sense of place and forms a central part of his oeuvre, gained international recognition when Leaving Saïgon (“Quitter Saïgon”), the first volume of the series, won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Angouleme comic book festival.
Winner of an Institut français Stendhal Residency, Clément Baloup was in Taiwan in 2013.
The Stendhal programme allows French authors or authors living in France to travel to a foreign country and work on a writing project related to that country.