An artists’ duo is working on reinvigorating zine culture in India, putting them on display at an ongoing exhibition in Mumbai while also teaching others how to curate and celebrate the culture of self-published comics and literature.
In one of Mumbai’s posh neighbourhood, Colaba, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, some artists are curating art in various forms, specifically comics and literature. These works are different from all others out there; zines, as these self published pieces of work are called, are reproduced using a photocopier or just paper and pen and are a non-commercial publication often on unconventional subject matters.
Himanshu S (36) and Aqui Thami (27) are the artists who are raising awareness about this form of expression and taking it to the ones who could be potential contributors, influencers or simply a fan, through an exhibition that is on till May 11.
The duo co-founded Bombay Underground, a city-based initiative for creative social exchange, which is their means of spreading the word of zine. Being held at Colaba-based art gallery, Chatterjee & Lal, the exhibition is a celebration of independently published literature, comic books, poetry, journalism, and drawings. With a wide range of works, from more than 200 zinesters (zine makers) around the world, it aims to broaden the zine culture in Mumbai.
One will be able to find zines on various topics, ranging from some light hearted reads to subjects on women and their relationship with periods, asexuality and polyamory. Cooking recipes, street theatre and Ambedkar’s stance on casteism are some other topics.
Himanshu and Thami who are fans of John Porcellino, a US based artist and creator of popular minicomics- King-Cat Comics, also have the popular series on display to promote DIY or Do-It-Yourself culture. Zines from countries including Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and various parts of India are also on display. The works range from the personal to the political and have been handpicked by the duo.
“Within the country, we were interested in looking at the works of small-scale publishing houses and printing presses of the ’90s,” says Himanshu.
This exhibition is not the first attempt at bringing zine culture to the forefront in India. Previously, the duo had organised the first Bombay Zine Fest in early 2017 and were also part of the Kochi Biennale, an international exhibition of contemporary art held in Kochi, Kerala.
As part of the ongoing exhibition, Himanshu and Thami will revise, revive and remake self-published material and encourage visitors to participate. They will also teach others how to do this by showing them videos on how to make zines and play interviews of zinesters.
People will be able to make their own zines on the history of the red flag, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and their favourite toys. “The experience of handling zines in person — turning each page to reveal comics and poetry — can’t be duplicated online. The philosophy behind making a zine is that you are contesting your own stream of publication because you are doing the alternative. The idea is that anyone can make it, and we want to celebrate that,” says Himanshu.
For future, the duo is working towards setting up a zine library where people can display their works as well as read zines.