Zines are my favourite form of art. It’s a bunch of cute, passionate, awkward, kids, making cute, awkward, passionate, publications about the things that they care about.

It’s a movement which was born out of punk and counter-culture. That desperate urge, that comes with youth, to have a voice, rebel and put a stake in the ground which says ‘THIS IS THE THING THAT I CARE ABOUT’. Even if you’re an uncool nobody, who has no social life, living in a tiny place in the back and beyond, just as long as you have access to a photocopier and a seed of an idea, you can get your voice out there, even if it’s just leaving three copies in your local cafe.

Yeah there’s your usual poetry and BIG subjects like politics, but there’s also plant guides, photo collections of the back of peoples heads at gigs, and tributes to cats yawning. One time there was a zine about Bee-keeping in North Amberley which came with a teeny-tiny little pot of honey from the very hives that were written about, so you could literally taste and smell the subject matter.

There’s real lo-fi stuff printed on a single sheet of A4, in scratchy black and white lines, folded up very small. Then there’s immaculately designed, and formed, complete books with neon binding, and thick glossy pages, which could easily be sold in niche designer art stores in SoHo.

Zinefest is when all of these people, ideas, and publications come together, once a year, in market format. It’s a low-key affair in Christchurch, like, 15 stalls. Every Zinefest is very quiet and chill affair. Every one huddles behind their stall, usually working on other projects, or the next zine, doodling, cutting up paper, and tapping away on laptops.

It’s all a bit like one of those dances we had at High School. Everyone sits around the edge of the room, behind their tables, averting eye contact, reluctant to mingle. Eventually one person gains the courage to get up and do the round of stall-holders, like the first person up dancing. We see that this is a friendly space, of nice people, and then everyone gets up, circulates and becomes friends, talking about, and swapping zines, and stories as to how and why each zine came to be.

That’s the whole point of zine-making and Zinefest. Yeah it’s nice to have the public come in, look at and buy your work. But the best part is meeting other like-minded, creative people, who are also bedroom-creatives. We are not showy, attitude ARTISTS. We are insecure, nervous, makers, full of self-doubt, creating things behind closed doors, about things we feel that only really we care about, convinced that no one else on earth will ever want to read your 12 page booklet on roller coaster design. Many will spend all year making zines – drawing, writing, pasting collages – only for no one to ever see these wonderful things of quirk and beauty. Except for Zinefest, where we come to a safe space, to share, to know that you are amongst your own. No one will judge. No thinks that they are a REAL artist, a REAL publisher, or a REAL writer. And despite always being in awe of what our fellow zinesters make, we know we’re are all equals.

This is how art should be. What real art is. No barriers. No judgement. No rules. No pretension. Open to everyone of all backgrounds, ages, education, skills, budgets and interests. Zines cost almost nothing to produce, nothing to acquire, when you mainly deal in trades, and stalls at Zinefest are free. It’s an all-inclusive, welcoming and nurturing place for the shy and self-doubting, to meet others and get inspired. And sometimes, someone comes up, picks up that roller coaster zine, smiles, and says ‘hey this is really really cool, can I have one’. And that feels bloody great.

You’ll never see any of the usual Art Crowd or Gallery Cliques at a Zinefest. I never have, in 5 years of being active in the scene. I doubt that Zines and zine makers even register on their radars. We are invisible. We don’t exist. Which is a fucking shame because I feel like The Art World could learn a lot from The Zine World – seeing what true free creative expression and inclusiveness looks like. But then, we wouldn’t want them here, anyway. They’d only take the zine, and turn it into something ‘by invited artists only’ to nod at thoughtfully, over a glass of free wine.

Bonjela x





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