From fine art school graduates to hobbyists, magazine-making talent from all over the city is showcased in Auckland Zinefest. Lucy Zee went along to check out the zines and meet some makers.
Aucklanders love a festival. If it’s not food, wine or farm equipment, then it’s celebrating creatives.
You may have come across a flour-pasted flyer on the street advertising Zinefest, a place where creatives from different backgrounds and talents come together to sell handcrafted magazines, art prints, badges and jewellery.
The festival began in 2009. Now, 10 years later, it’s a slickly organised, smooth-running operation held in the sunny event space at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
For those who aren’t clued up on what a zine is, it’s a self-published booklet of work that could include almost anything – writing, illustrations, cut-outs, photographs, however creators wants to express themselves, or just to entertain. The rough-and-ready-to-distribute type of publication is a very common aesthetic in the creative community, allowing people the freedom to make what they want without having to adhere to mainstream publishing standards.
For the last six years attending Zinefest has been a number one priority for me, and each year it gets better and better. Everyone is so talented and genuinely friendly. A day at Zinefest is all about big smiles and hellos as you peruse the zines, wishing you had more money to buy everyone’s work.
This year Zinefest was spread over two days. Some stall holders had full tables, while some sat at shared community tables or with their friends, all eagerly awaiting customers and the chance to engage. A zine can feel like flicking through someone’s diary, reading the thoughts that their makers would be otherwise unable to say in public. Every zine is like an invitation to get to know someone better.
My sister Jessica happened to score a full table on Saturday, day one. I’d seen her over the last three weeks in her little bedroom, painstakingly hand-pressing hundreds of badges for the event. She’d stayed up until 2am many nights, drawing her zine then watching as a 10-year-old printer begrudgingly spit out copy after copy. Her three desks were covered in cellophane and paper, season three of Mad Men playing on her screen as she pressed and pressed the night away. Making zines, prints and badges isn’t just a hobby for her – she’s absolutely determined to make it her full-time job.
On Saturday I went up to her bright pink table and I asked her how she was doing. She shrugged. “It’s early.”
A couple of people flocked towards her badges, unsure which to choose: No Hugs. Ask Me My Pronouns. Fuck TERFS. They giggled as they picked up each one, reading them out loud, unable to decide which to buy. “I want every single badge,” one of them said.
I wandered through the aisles of tables, admiring everyone’s zine work. There really is no one way to make a zine, and no two zines are alike. Some zines are slick, with expensive cardstock and thread binding; some zines are hand drawn, photocopied and folded into six pages. I once tried helping my sister make some zines. After sewing four booklets my back was aching and my fingers were like claws. Zine-making isn’t for the weak.
After making small talk with some stall holders, my eyes fell on a cute miniature vagina sculpture, then vagina prints, penis prints and butt zines.
The creator of the work, Tempest, told me she liked showing people images of anatomy, to make them uncomfortable in a good way. “It’s just a natural thing and a lot of people are really scared of it!”
Over the past few years attending Zinefests, the event’s diversity and number of PoC stallholders have increased year on year. I met Helen and Jasmin who were seated at the Migrant Zine Collective stall. Migrant Zine Collective is an activist space for migrants of colour in Aotearoa where they hold workshops to support PoC to create zines on themes including feminism, migrant experiences and anti-racism.
I asked Helen and Jasmin why they thought events like these were important for the community Helen said they were an accessible medium that allowed the community to spread new ideas. Jasmin agreed. “They’re a platform to publish stuff that doesn’t usually get accepted in more mainstream narratives as well. Stuff that could be perceived as aggressive…”
“Or divisive,” Helen added.
I mentioned that there seemed to be a lot more people of colour doing zines these days. The pair listened to me patiently as I rambled like an old woman recalling her golden years. “Yeah I think a lot of creatives of colour are getting more involved,” said Helen. “But in terms of the space, it’s still more white-dominated and it’s not really a safe space to express certain ideas.”
Jasmin nodded in agreement, “Yeah, there’s room for improvement.”
I walked away thinking Helen and Jasmin were so fucking cool.
I presumed they were in their very early 20s. At that age I still hadn’t begun to accept the right or even understand my own voice as a person of colour, let alone to be brave enough to speak out about racism that needed to be addressed. I’ve noticed over the past few years that young PoC are increasingly carving out safe spaces for creatives of colour.
Zinefest is just one of many events in Auckland where people of colour have found space where they can add their voices, There may not be that many opportunities or chances for PoC in New Zealand’s mainstream media, but at Zinefest there are tables ready to be filled with publications written by PoC.
The hot afternoon sun began to stream in and so did more Zinefest attendees. My sister’s badges were selling out fast. As she restocked the ‘Ask Me My Pronouns’ badges I asked her why they went so quickly.
“A zine or a badge can say something for someone who might not be able to say out loud themselves. I think that it’s important for people to be able to express what they think through drawing or writing… and it would be nice if someone read it too.”
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