‘Quiet Dream’: Vietnamese women and marriage migration
Keywords:cross-border marriage, ocular ethic, Oh Soon-Hwa, re-visioning, vision as critique
The photographic essay, ‘Quiet Dream’, by photographer and lecturer Oh Soon-Hwa, represents the culmination of years of work with young Vietnamese women during a “bride phase” in Vietnam, which refers to a period of waiting before leaving home and kin to travel overseas in order to marry foreign men, usually in Taiwan and South Korea. This series was taken on and around a small island in the region of the Mekong Delta (one of the poorest areas in Vietnam), nicknamed “Taiwan Island”, where many young women are pressured to marry foreigners for various complex reasons, which the author discusses. Oh’s photographic essay focuses on the beauty and serenity of the environment surrounding these women while they have to deal with diverse expectations, which includes leaving behind part of their identity, the familiar landscape, climate, language, family, friends, traditions, and way of living. Until recently, studies on marriage migration have tended to focus on remittances and the economic impact of migration. New studies adopt a more comprehensive social perspective, examining the effects of migration on the social fabric of the migrants’ home community. Placed in the context of these ongoing studies, Oh’s work is important in drawing attention to the lives and identities of these women (what they give up) before entering into marriage migration. My article focuses on two aspects of Oh’s photographs: 1) the technique of stitched photography; and 2) the compo-sition of the photograph, particularly the choice of dress worn by the subject. Half of the portraits are stitched photographs, which is a technique that merges together several photographs to form a unique piece, with the aim of providing a wider view of the environment of the subject. This method of stitching also bears testimony to the stitched futures of these women; the hopes and dreams they harbour as foreign brides, as well as the familiar landscapes and identities they leave behind, all “stitched” together as it were, to constitute a hopeful, but also unsure, resigned and imagined future.