Valérie Jacques Bélair, alias Val-Bleu, has traveled to India several times since 2012, and she shares her passion for the country, its culture, its myths and its inhabitants in a beautiful way, with comics. Hard rinds.
Raphi suffers from a concussion from her bicycle accident, and she is dizzy and tired all the time. Discouraged by her long convalescence, she thinks of giving up her studies in religious sciences and her mastery of Hindu deities, which are nevertheless her great passion. To make the situation even worse, her lover leaves her, and her roommate lets her know that he would like his boyfriend to move into the apartment, and take his place.
Realizing that nothing is keeping her in Montreal, Raphi then decides to go to India, and to go to Rajasthan to visit the temple of the rats in Deshnoke, this singular place where rodents are venerated and are fed with pastries and of milk. As soon as she arrives, she meets a young Indian on school leave, Lokesh, who offers her to become his guide. Following an argument with him, she finds herself lost in the desert. By chance, she comes across three young women, including Babita, who sports a generous mustache. Accompanied in this way, she will discover an aspect of the country to which few tourists have access, namely rural life.
It is not yesterday that people who are broken, or who are looking for themselves, travel to India, a country renowned for its great spirituality, but Hard rinds is not just a simple travel diary, or the story of a young woman in search of healing. This album by Valérie Jacques-Bélair, alias Val-Bleu, above all offers an introduction to Indian culture and mythology. She depicts an overpopulated country, where trains and buses are always crowded, late, and regularly break down, briefly explains the caste system, addresses the still very present taboo of homosexuality, and cohabitation, not always obvious. , between tradition and modernity.
She recounts several myths, including that of the goddesses Karni Mata or Kali, or even the story of Ila, who alternated between male and female every month, but she does so in a local patois: “ Shiva doesn’t care, but Sati is in crisis. She goes to the party, and the shit gets stuck with Daksh “. I really enjoyed this aspect of comics, and I personally would have taken a complete book of these Hindu legends with Quebec sauce.
Val-Bleu’s drawings in Hard rinds are rather simple and naive, and do not really have any textures (apart from the patterns of Indian fabrics), or depth. The artist uses full and vivid colors, but devoid of gradients. Despite everything, its graphic signature is very personal, and pleasing to the eye.
Her portraits of the crowded streets of Delhi brim with life, and she conveys well the sweltering heat, or the dense crowds that inhabit every place in this country of 1.3 billion people. As if taken directly from his notebook, the illustrations of his summaries of Indian mythology are even more simplified, and presented in black and white.
Towards the very end of the story, she sketches hallucinatory frescoes combining Montreal life and its accident with Indian goddesses, which is visually the strong point of the comic strip. The album concludes with a biography and a filmography of a few pages for those who would like to delve deeper into the culture of the country.
Anyone wishing to learn about the rich culture of India and visit, if only virtually, this country with thousand-year-old traditions, cannot hope for a better guide than Valérie Jacques-Bélair, and her album Hard rinds. Change of scenery guaranteed.
Hard rinds, of Val-Bleu. Published by Mécanique générale, 256 pages.