This weekend, some of the American babes of Boshemia attended the 7th Annual D.C. Zine Fest [DCZF] to promote Boshemia Magazine in Washington, D.C. On July 15, Becky J.—lead designer for the magazine—and I [Eileen] dropped off a stack of magazines at Zine Fest’s Day of Distro table and headed into the circus of nearly 900 visitors to mingle with zine-makers from the D.C. metro area.
Held at St. Stephen & the Incarnation Church in Northwest DC, the venue was perfect for such a gathering of creatives—it served as a literal sanctuary, a truly accessible and safe public space for people to come together. Zinesters, self-publishing artists and other independent creatives came from New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and nearby D.C. neighborhoods to showcase their publications, prints, pins, buttons, hand-sewn books, stickers, magnets, and other lovely bits of art.
So what is a zine, exactly? Zines exist at the intersection of activism and art, and appear in a vast array of mediums and forms; most literally, they are self-published small works, smaller than a traditional magazine and self-published. Created to be accessible, printed independently, and circulated easily, zines are often political in nature, and if not political, they are often informative or narrative works.
The inherent politics of a zine are to disrupt, challenge, or to provoke a change in mainstream culture, publishing or otherwise. Zines are created by individuals and collectives alike who seize the means of production themselves by producing their own work without corporate affiliation. In this way, they challenge capitalist institutions and break down barriers of entry by empowering the individual and inspiring the collective to break away from traditional systems. [Editor’s note: Read here about fascinating discussions about zines being rooted in punk and feminist culture.]
Boshemia Magazine itself is a tricky publication to define—its at once an anthology of essays and collection of art prints, yet also a pop culture and arts magazine. Further still, it feels a bit like a book because of its binding, A5 size, and length of pages. Its status as a publication sold in independent stores somewhat elevates it from the hand-to-hand distribution of typical self-made zines, yet its intentional lack of adverts and corporate affiliation root it firmly as independent. We are still finding our niche in the world of publishing, but it was wonderful to discover that we fit into the framework of indie high street shops and community-based zine fairs alike.
Seminars in the Sanctuary: on Color and Self-Publishing
Also at the festival were two discussion panels, one on arts and activism, and the other called “A Discourse on Color and Self-Publishing.” We attended the latter, sitting in a wide circle in the sanctuary of the old church, listening to three artists and activists address the room. On the panel moderated by Andy Wentz, were American Artist, Tanvi Avasthi, and Denis Shah—all creatives and community organizers in their own right.
They spoke of the inherent difficulties publishing as POC, which including less exposure and less representation in narratives. They spoke also about zines as a means of coalition building and cultural exchange, drawing connections to zines and memes in the acquisition of new and quickly-spread ideas. At the core of their discussion was a conversation about the urgent need to decentralize the White experience in both print culture and in mainstream culture writ large, calling to attention the dangers of holding onto one narrative or forcing the Objective experience of others. Lastly, our group then talked together about incremental change being the necessary tools in political and social revolution, which Tanvi aptly called #microprogressions. Zines, in both size and context, are definitely micro-progressions.
Of the handfuls of zines that Becky and I brought home, there were three zines in particular that caught my attention: “Gendercomic,” “Girl Paradise,” and “Our Black Book.”
“Gendercomic,” sold in one of the same shops as Boshemia Magazine, focuses on the author Anne Buckwalter’s relationship with gender. It’s a first-person narrative exploration that draws from the work of “Big Five” women comic artists [think Alison Bechdel] but exhibits a distinctly new personal style. “Gendercomic” synthesizes artistic influences and scholarly resources, incorporating knowledge into an easy-to-understand way make the study of gender accessible for nongender studies majors. It’s a lovely resource for the uninformed and academic alike who want to brush up on gender politics and theory.
“Girl Paradise” is created by The Bettys, an NYC art collective that produces and curates zines and art events for the NYC-metro area. They produce full-color zines that celebrate women’s youth culture, in vibrant photographs and quirky illustrations. Two issues that we loved are “Girl Paradise” and “Feelin Myself.” The coloring of their artwork reminds me of my favorite Bryan K. Vaughn series, Paper Girls, with its spacey and nostalgic aesthetic. The illustrations and photography are curated seamlessly into an edgy-yet-bubblegum dream pop universe; think neons, flowers, and outer space. You can view their work here.
Another favorite zine of the day was “Our Black Book.” Published by the Society of Young Revolutionaries [SOYR], “Our Black Book” provides low-cost advertising for Black entrepreneurs in D.C.’s business communities. SOYR’s mission is to enhance and empower the lives of Afro-Americans, with community-led projects, volunteer opportunities, and of course, their zine. Their publication also showcases original art and writing by young black creatives in D.C. Look out for a forthcoming interview with their editor-in-chief, Christina Richardson! In the meanwhile, you can read more about their work here.
Boshemia Magazine had a brilliant time meeting and chatting with artists in this corner of the world. While it was a thrill to see our magazine go home with new readers, most exciting of all was meeting so many new illustrators and comic artists who specialize in women’s narratives. Sometimes it feels like we create our work in isolation, so to meet folks who are creating work focused on gender, politics, and feminist praxis was very reaffirming. We met some fabulous contacts, perhaps sparking a collaboration with new American illustrators for forthcoming Issue 02 this autumn.
To learn more about DC Zine Fest and how to get involved, check out their website here.