The story

Awakened is a non-fictional graphic novel, based on ten years of ethnographic and archival research in Thailand, that tells the story of Nok, an old blind man who sells lottery tickets in Bangkok. One morning, Nok and his wife Gai, a sarcastic migrant worker, decide to leave the city for good and head back to their native village. How did Nok lose his sight? Why are they running away from the city?

The story follows Nok as he walks Bangkok’s streets for the last time, trying to get rid of his last five lottery tickets. Each ticket he sells, Nok encounters a person, an object, a smell, or a noise that bring him back to a period of his life. Through an alternation of reflections on contemporary Bangkok and flashbacks to his past, we reconstruct Nok’s trajectory, his love story with Gai, the ups and downs of their migrant lives, as well as those of an entire country around them.

Awakened is a story of migration to the city and distant families in the countryside; a story of economic development eating its land and children and of political protest choked in blood. Ultimately, it is a story about contemporary Thailand and how the waves of historical changes lift, engulf, or crash two ordinary people.

Why are three Italians writing about Thailand?

This project was born out of 10 years of ethnographic and historical research conducted by our writer in Thailand. Over that time he lived there, learned the language, interviewed hundreds of people and spent hours and hours in archives. In 2010 he witnessed the biggest political protest in the country history, one in which 100 people were shot down by military snipers. He did all of this as an academic,  writing papers, books, and articles. Yet he realized that in his work, the stories of the amazing, courageous, and insanely human people he met suffered, buried in academic jargon and journalistic sensationalism.

Those stories needed to be at the centre and to be told to a wider audience. For this reason, we decided to start a collaboration mixing his in-depth knowledge of the country with the fresh eyes of an international artist and producer. In 2014, when a military government staged a coup in Thailand, a new sense of urgency emerged. We decided to use comics as a mean to fight the authoritarian erasure of the migrants who allow Bangkok to exist and fought in its streets in 2010 but were being  imprisoned and silenced. Hence our refusal of use the classic narrative structure for this kind of graphic novel in which  the central character and narrator is the the foreign researcher/journalist/traveler. We wanted local protagonists and decided to base every line in our graphic novel on real interviews with people we spent years talking to. While Nok, Gai, Hong, and the other characters are not real human beings, each part of their stories, their dreams, and their frustrations are based on actual people we met in Thailand.