“Ma,” a Comic That Puts a Human Face on the Refugees Affected by the Vietnam War
The beginning of Matt Huynh‘s latest graphic novel Ma begins with four different meanings for the word “ma.” While in most cultures “ma” means mother, in Japanese “ma” means interval, in Sanskirt it means water, and in Vietnamese it means ghost. All four words thoroughly sum up Huynh’s haunting comic about a young couple who flees the Vietnam War and takes refuge in Malaysia’s Pulau Bidong refugee camps. The couple and their young sons wait around in a perpetual state of purgatory as they wait to seek asylum. Based on the true story of how his parents came to Australia, Huynh’s personal attachment to the story makes the connection more vivid.
“These stories were obviously something I long carried,” Huynh explains,” but the very recent demonization of asylum seekers and boat people in Australian politics and media ignited an urgent need to tell the story today with a hope that simple, direct connection to an asylum seeker was a warm voice and worthy reminder to have in today’s debates.”