Why zines are important to me – also in quarantine times

Zines have a central role in my life. Ever since I first heard about (fan)zines in a Courtney Love biography that mentionned zines in the context of riot grrrl, my interest was awoken. I then found more books about zines and websites with texts taken from zines and then some actual zines too (woohoo!). It was the late 90s so in rural Belgium they weren’t easy to find or order. But I soon connected to online riot grrrl communities who produced their own zines which I started to devour and this encouraged me to start writing some too. To be honest I probably didn’t think that two decades later I’d still be making and reading zines. But on the other hand, why not? Zines are an absolutely awesome medium and I just can’t get enough of them.

Poster by Myrthe Van Rompaey spotted on a recent walk

I’ve written before (a lot!) about why I like zines so I’ll first mention those texts here:

I didn’t reread any of these texts and some go way back but I assume I still agree with everything I wrote. 🙂

So here are my main reasons why zines are still so very important to me today, even in uncertain quarantine times:

The zine community: the support and encouragement it gives, the friendships and pen pals, trading zines, meeting up at zine fests, sharing our lives on paper with each other, understanding and relating to what each of us are writing about… The international zine scene was especially important to me as a newbie zinester but still today, it feels so precious to be part of this community. For example during the current lockdown it matters a lot to me to connect with zinesters worldwide, online on social media, by reading their zines, by exchanging letters, by making zines together while video chatting… Those connections have helped me a lot to cope with these difficult times.

Zines are accessible to make and acquire: Zines are affordable to buy (well, artzines often aren’t but then maybe they aren’t zines but something else?) and often available to trade and sometimes they are even free. It’s easy and cheap to make your own zine: you just need some paper, a pen, scissors, glue, and access to a copy machine or printer (computer/scanner, stickers, glitter, scrap paper, photos, washi-tape, etc are optional but can be fun to work with). You probably have all of these basics at home (except maybe a printer, so printing and sending paper copies through the post may have to wait a little while during the lockdown) so how about creating your very own quaranzine?

It’s a paper medium that suits me: I enjoy drawing and writing, making collages by hand, and editing in Photoshop and Scribus/Indesign. I’ve never stopped drawing since I was a toddler and I’m happy that I can self-publish some of my comics and publications in zines. Drawing/writing is something I can easily do at home but also while travelling. I always carry a notebook and pens and pencils with me. At the moment I’m working on several zines at the same time (I’ll post some news and updates soon on this blog) and I’ve also contributed to a few zines edited by other zinesters. For me it’s an excellent form of creative distraction and self-expression.

The creative freedom and autonomy: You can make a zine about whatever you want, however you want. There are no editors or advertisers or commercial online platforms who will censor or control or own your work. Zine readers don’t care if you don’t have a degree in graphic design or if you aren’t a professional journalist or if you don’t manage to write without typos. Just go for it! (And send me a copy, because I’m interested in reading your zine!).

Consciouness-raising and media activism: For me zines, especially perzines (personal zines focussing on autobiographical content), are a form of “community media”, often restricted to readers who will be able to relate to the content. Zine readers are often also zine writers so they will share their stories and experiences with each other. I think this can be seen as a form of consciousness-raising (remember when feminists in the 1970s discussed their personal but shared experiences living in a misogynist society and concluded that the personal is political?). Certainly in times when we can’t meet up in person due to spatial distancing/lockdown measures but injustice and oppression are still happening all around us, it’s important to share our stories and raise some awareness. And we can use zines as a tool for this. So I think making zines can be a form of media activism. Along with making posters/street-art, podcasts, pamphlets, video documentaries, blogs, etc, zines can play an important role for activists.

So, why do you like or make zines?

About rebelsister

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