Unfold the pages of the zines made by Margaux Bigou and you’ll unleash a beautiful and bizarre menagerie of mini beasts, plant life and monsters. Her work is saturated with contextual references to Indigenous philosophy, magical beliefs, wildlife of the South Pacific and her own South-Asian heritage, all of which radiate warmly in the jewel-like tones of Riso. While she now lives in Tahiti, Margaux was born to a Vietnamese mother and Moroccan father in the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia. From a young age, the unique wildlife of the island inspired her, discovering prehistoric plants which you “can’t find anywhere else”, she tells us. It wasn’t until high school though (“after my first heartbreak lol”) that she began crystallising the vibrant colours and natural forms of her surroundings into her own personal style. As she healed her broken heart, she dreamed of “escaping to the forest with friendly and soft monsters", and began creating these magical creatures through illustration.
As she grew older, Margaux learnt more about South Pacific cultures and the myths about "spirits, lizard men and an underwater paradise", filtering what she learnt into her work. She discovered the masks of Oceanian Kanak (New Caledonia and Kanaky indigenous people) and Polynesian cultures (Maori and Maohi) and became fascinated by their “magical meanings”, their use in “death ceremonies” and the materials used to make them – “bird feathers, mother of pearls, hairs and teeth”. Weaving her own imaginations with these magical references, Margaux's creative vision is topped off with a “pinch of dark humour”.
Strangely enough, one of our favourite works by Margaux wasn't dreamed up in her South Pacific paradise, but in Europe. After high school, she won a full scholarship to study animation and illustration in Paris where she spent 10 happy years, selling her zines all over Europe, establishing herself in the micro-edition community, and going to parties in artists' squats. It all sounds pretty idyllic as far as most young illustrators are concerned. But after a decade, Margaux felt burnt out and yearned for her Island life back home. Once again, Margaux turned to her work for escapism.
She began writing a story which she later developed into a beautiful zine called Jérémiades. “The story is about an exhausted caterpillar wondering about the meaning of life in a sage field,” explains Margaux. “I related to this caterpillar at the time. I wanted to escape the big city life, grumpy people, bad weather, and the sad and stinky metro.”
Margaux got her wish after an artist’s residency took her to the island of Tahiti (just a short flight to her home in New Caledonia), where she remains to this day. Here she made the finishing touches to Jérémiades, a hilarious and bizarre creation with many folding pages revealing hidden details. While the colours, creatures and magical occurrences are strange and otherworldly, the little caterpillar that wallows in its bad mood is totally relatable: “my voice is annoying…and I stink”, it mopes.
The future looks bright for Margaux in Tahiti where she is planning to do more collaborative projects. She dreams of creating a place in the Pacific for artists and collectives to meet, giving physical reality to the kind the magical world she creates in her illustrations: a “utopian and inclusive self-acceptance space full of freaks, weirdos and monsters”.
Margaux Bigou: Jérémiades (Copyright © Margaux Bigou, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.