A glimpse into the wonderful, subversive world of zines

Online zine marketplace Bazinega will be hosting Zine Scene in Bengaluru this weekend

June 16, 2023 11:03 am | Updated 11:17 am IST

Ano Patel

Ano Patel | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Ano Patel stepped into the strange and wondrous world of zines, almost serendipitously. She had chanced upon the hashtag #zines in 2019 and begun following it, growing more and more captivated with the medium, says the 33-year-old Patel, the founder of Bazinega, House of Zines, an online zine marketplace and independent publishing house for zines.

During COVID-19, she found herself doomscrolling and going through zines from all over the world. “I ordered a whole lot of them on online during the pandemic,” says Patel, who created her own zine in 2021, in collaboration with women from all over the world. The zine, she says, was about spotting the first grey hair on the head, a theme explored through anecdotes, illustrations and even fiction.

Once it was ready, though, she found herself struggling to distribute it. “I had initially reached out to independent bookstores in Bengaluru to see if they would stock zines,” she says, recalling it to be a long, tiring process that often involved explaining what zines were (small-circulation, often handmade magazine with highly original content) and getting many rejections.

When she spoke to other zine makers too, she realised it was a common problem. “People mostly sold their zines on social media,” says the former journalist-turned-corporate communications strategist “I thought we needed a platform where zinesters could collaborate and showcase their work all through the year,” believes Patel, who started Bazinega in August 2022.

A selection of Zines

A selection of Zines | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Over the last 10 months, Bazinega, which began its journey with 14 artists from across 10 cities and 47 zine titles, has expanded considerably, going on to add more artists and publications to its roster. The platform has also participated in pop-ups, expanded its product base, held zine awards, started a poetry reading club and launched a monthly subscription plan, called Baz Bundles, among other things.

And now, Patel is all set to introduce more people in Bengaluru to this exciting medium. On June 17 and 18, Bazinega will be hosting Zine Scene, a zine festival, in the city. Visitors attending this event will not only be privy to a collection of over 60 zines created by 16 artists from all over India but can also register for workshops in zine-making, lithography workshop and storytelling. “Our main aim is to create more storytellers,” says Patel, adding that she also wants to bring in more zine readers.

A pocketful of stories

While some histories claim that the Ninety-Five Theses nailed to the door of the All Saints’ Church by the German theologian Martin Luther in 1517 could be seen as a zine too, the first real zine appears to have emerged in the 1920s and 30s, essentially as fanzines. “People would write about their favourite band, and distribute it within their circles,” says Patel, about these handmade magazines that have always been an essential aspect of counterculture movements.

And though zines may have evolved and changed form over the years, they continue to be seen as unfettered, often-subversive cultural artefacts, a huge part of their charm. “It is such a unique medium of storytelling. Every zine is so different,” says Patel, who thinks of it as a small “pocket-sized” magazine about big thoughts, ideas, obsessions and musings.

“I believe everyone has a story to tell, and zines are the perfect medium (for this),” she adds, pointing out that since zines are self-made and self-published, they are not limited by censorships or the vagaries of the publishing industry. “You aren’t dependent on external factors; you can just go ahead and do it.”

Ano says that zines tell unique stories

Ano says that zines tell unique stories | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

This, of course, means that the scope of zines is expansive, even limitless. “We have personal zines, food zines, travel zines, picture zines, or from someone who belongs to the LGBTQ community,” says Patel, adding that she remains amazed by the stories people are capable of telling through zines. “I hope to talk more about what zines are and make them an everyday read.”

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