I first met Maria-Elisa Heg at the Anarchist book fair in Houston. It was in a sea of people who didn't want their photos taken and many who didn't even want to deal with someone from the press, but Heg was different.
Heg, who's well-known in the local arts community, was standing before a mound of glossy zines on her table and she was all smiles promoting the festival she helps organize called Zine Fest Houston.
Zines were a big part of the Anarchist Bookfair (with a small dose of White Supremacist agitators), as were real books and posters and anything you need to learn about the prison industrial complex, or send a birthday card to someone on death row. If the words Trump or police were mentioned in earshot, best believe they weren't proceeded by "we like" or "we love".
But apart from that it was a pretty wholesome event that was all about being closer to nature and shaking loose the shackles of the man a bit. There was even a woman from California who was trying to get me to buy a menstruation cup, for my lady, natch. She might have needed money to get back home to Berkeley, but I'm not sure that purchase would have gone over well in my household.
Back to the zines, though. They were the highlight.
"We're spiritual siblings with the Anarchist Bookfair. The history of zine-ing is very political," Heg said, adding that this weekend's Zine Fest Houston, despite its foundations, isn't political in nature.
"It's very creator directed, you control the means of publication. It started out with sci-fi independent writers who weren't getting published, but pretty quickly it became the way that marginalized voices could be heard and communicate with each other. The legacy of left organizing through publishing is really old," she said. Heg notes that the Riot grrrl feminist movement in the 90s helped make zines a political extension of creating as part of the DIY movement.
Zine Fest Houston has been able to capitalize off renewed interest in people creating their own zines. When the fest kicked off in 2011 it started at Super Happy Funland, then moved to the Printing Museum and now will take over the Lawndale Art Center.
"It's definitely a thing that people are rediscovering in a way," Heg says about a bit of a renaissance these days. "People are doing these really high-quality art zines; the whole form is evolving."
Heg notes that it was back in 1993 that the first gathering of zine enthusiasts in Houston took shape. The event officially started in 2011 and has been going on ever since.
"It's like recording history in a way. We don't record a lot of history in Houston, so a lot of Houston history comes in the form of zines, it's an interesting thing," she says.
2017 Zine Fest Houston takes place at the Lawndale Art Center on Saturday, 1 p.m. to 7.p.m., 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858, or visit zinefesthouston.org. Free.
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