The land of Queens is body of work by documentary photographer Elin Berge. She has during a decade taken interest in the marriage migration phenomenon from Thailand to Sweden. In the previous work Drottninglandet (the Land of Queens, 2009) and the follow-up Kungariket (the Kingdom, 2015) she narrates how Swedish men and Thai women meet and get together - under forms other than the romantic ideal of unconditional and poignant love – and how they establish themselves in a foreign environment. A topic that affects people’s most intimate affairs and additionally covers deep, normative conceptions about what is right and wrong.
The phenomenon documented in these projects is increasingly common. According to reports, in some villages in the north eastern Isaan province in Thailand, as many as one in three families have female family members married to western men. Only in Sweden there are close to 30 000 Thai women living. The common reason for leaving, expressed by the women Elin Berge has met, is a wish to improve their lives - to find kind-hearted men, provide for their families of origin, increase their material standards, gain freedom and give their children a bright future. The men have not as clear verbalized the reasons for engaging in relationships with Thai women. However, many have talked about a previous and unwanted loneliness.
The title Drottninglandet is inspired from the area in Västerbotten, north Sweden, where the first part was photographed and several villages carries the names of Swedish queens. Drottninglandet is also the Thai women’s story. Kungariket is the Swedish men’s story and alludes to the patriarchal monarchy of Thailand, where it was shot when Elin accompanied some of the couples when they came on holiday to see their relatives.
The Land of Queens is a close collaboration between Elin Berge and composer Frida Hyvönen, who has made music to the photographs. It has resulted in two books and a touring exhibition. The third component is the documentary film in progress, made by Elin Berge and her brother, author and filmmaker Lars Berge. It narrates the same topic but moves focus from the structural to the personal and also adds a queer perspective to this heteronormative tale, by getting to know the Thai woman Thongluk, the Swedish man Mats-Åke and the ladyboy Pinit. The film is produced by Stina Gardell at Mantaray Film. The Land of Queens is supported by the Swedish Art’s Grants comittee.
The collected works reveals how people’s dreams of something better – both in the short and long term – are reshaping the places and contexts where these personal stories take place. A universal desire that shed lights on mankind’s reasons to migrate in history and from and to other parts of the world today. It encourages dialogue about power relations between class, gender and ethnicity as well as the effects of urban- and globalization. And ultimately – what true love really is.
text and images © Elin Berge
click to view the complete set of Land Of Queens images in the archive
click to view the complete set of The Kingdom images in the archive