Comics, rhythms and rhymes: Colonial borderlands and decolonial lines
When it comes to migration, there is an increasingly diverse array of traditional and experimental methods, standpoints, and formats (re-)emerging globally in both academic and artistic practices, including in comics. Being a comics author and maker who is also an immigrant, I am particularly intrigued by what comics can do for and with migration. The production of comics concerned with migration has ranged from documenting the journeys of refugees and asylum-seekers and engaging in graphic reportage to drawing postcolonial narratives and revisioning immigrant experiences, to name but a few. But why are comics deemed so potent with regard to the representation, communication, or commemoration of both past and present migration stories? Are comics the preferred migration media because of their emotive storytelling potential which cleverly engenders readers’ empathy and sympathy, or does their status as an accessible text-image tool for critical socio-historical commentary have something to do with their popularity?
In what follows, I illustrate some of the reasons why I have chosen to employ comics as a contemporary form of decolonial resistance, bringing an eighteenth-century runaway enslaved boy’s freedom-seeking migratory journey to life. These reflections do not encompass my full, extensive research to date. Their aim is rather to provide the basis for further theory-practice decolonial debates, encounters, and grounds for reflecting upon the multi-layered and fruitful intersections between comics and migration.
For more on my comics-related decolonial runaway journeys with John King, you can refer to my papers that stem from my practice-based PhD research developments. These can be found in Comics and Migration: Practices and Representation, Routledge (2022), Artful Xchanges: Propositions for Museum Education, Intellect (2022), Why Slavery Endures: Legacies and Contemporary Resistance, Cambridge Scholars (2022).
Kremena Dimitrova is a London-based illustrator-as-historian and lecturer in visual culture. She specialises in socially engaged and site-specific creative interventions and visual storytelling in the museum and heritage sector with a focus on unearthing hidden and marginalised narratives. Kremena often works with archives and collections and uses a mixture of artistic approaches to bring them to life. She is conducting an interdisciplinary practice-based PhD in Visualising History at the University of Portsmouth which explores comics-based research as a contemporary form of decolonial resistance. Kremena is currently contributing research papers stemming from her PhD to three international academic manuscripts with Routledge, Intellect, and Cambridge Scholars.