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Old-school 'zine format of choice for collective

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From left, Jarita Greyeyes, Joi T. Arcand, Leah Arcand and Melody Wood.

MARCEL PETIT Enlarge Image

From left, Jarita Greyeyes, Joi T. Arcand, Leah Arcand and Melody Wood.

A Saskatoon-based collective of indigenous writers, artists and students is bringing its independently published 'zine to the 'Peg.

Joi T. Arcand, Leah Arcand, Jarita Greyeyes and Melody Wood are the four young aboriginal women behind kimiwan, a quarterly, submission-based publication that showcases writing and art by emerging and established indigenous artists. The 'zine does a run of 300 issues every March, June, September and December.

The print 'zine -- traditionally an abbreviation of fanzine -- has a long history, a staple of the 1970s punk and 1990s riot grrrl scenes. 'Zines are small-circulation, self-published works featuring stories and images that aren't normally reflected in mainstream media.

The collective is launching its March 2014 issue -- Issue Sixxx -- at a launch party at Union Sound Hall. Subtitled "samikewin" or "touch", Issue Sixxx features works across disciplines that explore themes of sexual and gender identity. The issue was produced in collaboration with the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), an organization by and for indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice throughout the United States and Canada.

Greyeyes says the collaboration was a natural fit. NYSHN supports media, art and justice initiatives and provides space for indigenous communities to tell stories about their bodies, she says.

"We have a tremendous respect for the work they do. They've been working hard to support young people, helping them have healthy lives, which includes healthy sexuality. They do a lot of work in harm reduction. It's real skills they help build."

Fittingly, the party at Union Sound Hall will be headlined by Big Freedia, New Orleans' Queen of Bounce -- the genre that begat twerking, by the way, for those who think Miley Cyrus invented it -- who is bound by neither genre or gender. She (Freedia identifies as male but prefers the feminine pronoun for her stage persona) will be joined onstage by Winnipeg's Namowan, Clash SSRqN Cooks and Queerview. Wab Kinew will host.

Several Manitoba artists are featured in the current issue, including Winnipeg-raised, Toronto-based Kent Monkman, who provided the cover image for the issue. Monkman's art often explores gender identity; his Louis Vuitton-loving, hot pink platform-wearing drag queen alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, is a recurring character in his work.

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kimiwan has been steadily building buzz since it was founded in the summer of 2012. Arcand had been living in Vancouver and was involved with another 'zine called R.A.I.N. (Radical Art in Nature). She returned to Saskatchewan inspired and started up kimiwan with her cousin Mika Lafond. kimiwan means rain in Plains Cree. "It's a nod to the folks in B.C. and all the good work that they do," Greyeyes says.

The collective's MO was simple, but vital: "We wanted to create a space that allowed us to put a spotlight on both established artists and up-and-comers and celebrate the things people are creating," she says.

And kimiwan presents these creations in a medium that is a work of art in itself. "It's a beautiful thing," Greyeyes says of the 'zine. "There are no ads. It's not a blog; you can't see the content unless you purchase a 'zine. That was a really conscious decision by Joi; she wanted to have a physical presence."

Although the collective is based in Saskatoon, kimiwan attracts submissions from all over the world. Currently, the 'zine is only available for purchase online and select brick-and-mortar shops in Saskatoon, Vancouver and Toronto. Greyeyes is hoping to forage relationships with Winnipeg retailers while the group is here this weekend.

In an era of Tumblr and Instagram, there's something refreshing about four women working in the rich DIY tradition of the print 'zine. The 'zine still represents an act of rebellion; it makes the inaccessible accessible. kimiwan is no exception.

"We're bringing art out of establishments into the community. We reject the idea that art is something that only exists in galleries. A 'zine is something you can keep and pass around. It doesn't require an Internet connection or cellphone reception -- which in some of our communities isn't very good," Greyeyes says.

And while the 'zines of art that the collective produce four times a year are a far cry from the Xerox-and-stapler jobs of yore, the ethos is the same.

"Anyone can make a 'zine," Greyeyes says. "That's the idea, that anyone can do this. We're unfunded. We're volunteers with jobs and other commitment, but we believe in it. If you feel like there's a missing link in your community, you don't have to wait to do something about it, you can do it."

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2014 G9

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