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Zeitgeist for Zines

Bandra-based Underground Bookhouse, part of Bombay Underground, is curating a travelling zine festival

literature-759 Aqui Thami’s work; (below) zines that will be part of the festival.

When Himanshu S, co-founder of Dharavi Art Room, put out a call for zines in October last year, he got hundreds of responses from world over. Artists, organisations, movements and designers were enthusiastic about contributing to arguably the first-of-its-kind festival in India that celebrates zines or self-published booklets of original or appropriated images, reproduced using a photocopier, printing press or paper and pen. More popular fifteen years ago, before the advent of the internet drew down the shutters of small publishing houses, the festival hopes to connect people who want to create zines.

The first edition of the festival, organised by Bombay Underground, a collective founded by Himanshu and his friends in 2002, will take place on January 14 and 15 at Underground Bookhouse’s Bandra location. After its launch in Mumbai, the festival will travel to Kochi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Goa and Delhi, collecting zines along the way. Though now the collection holds around 140 pieces, Himanshu hopes the number rises to 300. Selected zines will also be available for purchase.
Circulated in groups, zines were often used to spread a message, raise awareness or encourage the participation of people in a cause. That, at least, was the original purpose of zines says Himanshu, who recalls a Marathi publication in 1996 that addressed the “brahminisation” of education through the words of Dr BR Ambedkar and social reformer Savitribai Phule. While in Europe and the US, spreading a message still remains the primary purpose of zines, in Mumbai they are now created by individual graphic artists and designers and lack the gravity of a call-to-arms. Himanshu hopes that if they pick up in popularity once more, zines will again be associated with social movements and community groups.

At the festival, one can flip through pages detailing women’s experiences of getting their period for the first time in a zine created by Aqui Thami, Himanshu S’s partner at Bombay Underground, or learn how to be a revolutionary from the zine ABCs of Anarchy by Brian Heagney from the UK. There are zines that address social issues and historical events, such as the Bhopal gas tragedy. Some zines cover off-beat, quirky topics — the work of those who xerox, for instance, or dialogues between couples. Also available will be some of Bombay Underground’s zines, called A5, about issues such as surveillance and counter-culture movements.

“Zines, because they are physical, get people into what I call the active mood,” says Himanshu, adding, “Though there are thousands of groups on Facebook, they rarely manage to get on the ground — the tumult of information available online sucks them down and renders them immobile. But zines slow down this information and limit it to what’s important to know,” he says.

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First published on: 14-01-2017 at 12:21:19 am
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