Zine Scene

Perusing the Inaugural Hawaii Zine Fest

Words and video by Shawn “Speedy” Lopes

Once Hawaii’s hub of harlotry and 24 hour stop-and-shop for all manner of vice, Chinatown Honolulu has, over the years, ambled towards reputability. Though still dicey in parts, capricious and jagged around the edges, it’s now home to artist lofts, bustling new restaurants and City-sanctioned block parties.

Sunday mornings are relatively calm here, as if the streets are still in a deep slumber following the weekend’s festivities. Most of the bars and eateries are closed and downtown’s nine-to-fivers won’t arrive for another day.

On this particular Sunday, however, a diverse and unusually chirpy congregation has overtaken The Manifest, a modish Hotel Street taproom known to throw the occasional live punk rock matinee. By 10:00 AM, the bar is packed and its entire perimeter is lined with tables occupied by artists and their wares.

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This is the first-ever Hawaii Zine Fest and judging by the buzzing throng of attendees, it looks to be off to an auspicious start. Represented are photographers, illustrators, fine artists, printmakers, art educators, writers, DJs, musicians, clothing designers, runway models, skaters, BMX riders and social advocates.

There’s film photography shop Treehouse; clothing brand Claymore Minds; ceramist Dee Oliva; Tiny Zine Hawaii, which true to its name, produces palm-sized booklets, and dozens of other collectives and individuals who have created artsy, handheld readables for this event.

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Each participant is here to sell, trade and share their ‘zines (also known as fanzines): self-published, DIY books or magazines of an inexhaustible number of subjects. Name the interest and chances are someone somewhere has printed a ‘zine for it.  After all, the roots of the homemade fanzine can be traced as far back as the 1800s. Historians will tell you about the science fiction fanzines of the first half of the 20th century, social activism publications of the ‘60s and punk rock ‘zines of the 1970s.

As Hawaii Zine Fest organizer, Natalie Nakasone can only be found after carefully sifting through the moving mob, usually clustered with newly arrived guests. The healthy turnout and astonishing array of ‘zines and participants, she will tell you, can be chalked up to the fanzine’s fundamentally open and inclusive nature. “The important thing to recognize is that the ‘zine as a format is an equalizer,” she asserts, adding that no prior experience or special skill set is necessary. “There are no rules on how it should be constructed, what should be inside, how many pages, whether it should be big or small, black and white or color. It can literally be anything that you want it to be and that appeals to everyone who has something important to say, which is all of us.”

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In a day and age in which one can easily — with a head full of ideas and a few keystrokes — create a blog, website or social media account to share thoughts, videos and photos, ‘zines would seem to be on its way to obsolescence. Not so fast, says Nakasone. Sixty three participants have set up shop here on short notice and several hundred attendees have already passed through the doors today. “We’ve been getting a lot of great feedback,” she reveals. “People met people they had never met before, made connections and new friends. That’s what it’s about.”

The glaring paradox here is that nearly all exhibitors at Hawaii Zine Fest use Instagram and Facebook to promote their decidedly low-tech publications and to network with other zinesters, as social media has proven far too valuable a tool to disavow. Yet in the area of reading material, these independent publishers say the Internet has failed to deliver a satisfactory substitute for leafing through a good book. “There’s a much more rewarding, fulfilling experience turning a page,” Nakasone notes. “Technology has its benefits, but I think we need to remember where we came from, which is ink and paper.”

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